Gaps in welfare attainment between boys and girls in China have attracted international attention. In this paper demand analysis is used to try and uncover the factors which may be driving the emergence of the gender gaps. Drawing on household expenditure data from a poor (Sichuan) and rich (Jiangsu) Chinese province we are able to test for different types of gender bias in intra-household allocation. Spending on health is found to be biased against young girls in the poor but not in the rich province, whereas there is a bias in education spending against older girls in both provinces. These biases in household spending were found to correspond to gender biases in mortality and enrolment outcomes as revealed in census data for the same year. Split sample analysis reveals that poorer, less diversified households exhibit stronger biases against girls. Taken together, the results suggest that son preference in rural China is not driven solely by cultural factors pointing to a potential role for public policy.