Towards an understanding of ultra-low fertility in South Korea: Socioeconomic effects on abortion preference


Author: Daniel Schwekendiek
Page Range: 213-220
Published in: International Public Health Journal, 15#2 (2023)
ISSN: 1947-4989

Table of Contents


South Korea was recently found to have the world’s lowest fertility rate. This study focuses on abortion preferences as a possible factor driving down fertility rates. After all, 1 in 4 women had experienced an abortion in South Korea. Data was taken from 1,250 men and women polled in South Korea in the most recent wave of the World Value Survey (2017-2022). Abortion preference was coded on a 10-point Likert scale and regressed on biodemographic, socioeconomic and further confounding variables (including most important religion). Expectedly, respondents in the upper-class group tended to significantly oppose abortion, as they apparently have more resources to safeguard the unwanted child. Along similar lines, respondents who value religion very much seem to have significantly lower abortion preferences – a finding that does not astonish too much given that all traditional world religions in South Korea are against abortions. Somewhat surprisingly, respondents living in the booming capital Seoul tend to be significantly in favor of abortion. While residence in the capital might be considered as a proxy for socioeconomic status, even better-off parents might not be able to move into larger homes to provide room and board for the unwanted newborn. Likely explanations for this include the over-heated real estate market and high living costs in Seoul. This study tentatively concludes that South Korea’s housing market plays an important role in driving down the fertility rate.

Keywords: abortion, demography, fertility, living standards, socioeconomic status, Korea

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