Tuesday, 8 March 2011
It would be comfortable to say “Could only happen in America” when reading this study, which indicates that it is not only developing countries which favour male children. However one cannot escape the thought that the finding of this study might easily be mirrored in Australia.
Do parents have preferences over the gender of their children, and if so, does this have negative consequences for daughters versus sons? In this paper, we show that child gender affects the maritalstatus, family structure, and fertility of a significant number of American families. Overall, a first-born daughter is significantly less likely to be living with her father compared to a first-born son. Three factors are important in explaining this gap. First, women with first-born daughters are less likely to marry. Strikingly, we also find evidence that the gender of a child in utero affects shotgun marriages. Among women who have taken an ultrasound test during pregnancy, mothers who have a girl are less likely to be married at delivery than those who have a boy. Second, parents who have first-born girls are significantly more likely to be divorced. Third, after a divorce, fathers are much more likely to obtain custody of sons compared to daughters. These three factors have serious negative income and educational consequencesfor affected children. What explains these findings? In the last part of the paper, we turn to the relationship between child gender and fertility to help sort out parental gender bias from competing explanations for our findings. We show that the number of children is significantly higher in families with a first-born girl. Our estimates indicate that first-born daughters caused approximately 5500 more births per year, for atotal of 220,000 more births over the past 40 years. Taken individually, each piece of empirical evidence is not sufficient to establish the existence of parental gender bias. But taken together, the weight of the evidence supports the notion that parents in the U .S. favour boys over girls…….Our findings are important for several reasons. First, regardless of how one interprets ourfindings on family structure and fertility, we show that child gender matters. The results on the educational and economic outcomes indicate that the negative effects on children living in families where the first-born child is a girl are substantial. While our findings indicate that some o fthe negative consequences of a first-born daughter affect younger siblings of both genders, girls are overall more likely to be exposed to these negative effects. Moreover, if there is evidence of parental sex bias in family living arrangements and fertility decisions, it may be indicative ofother ways in which parents treat boys and girls unequally. For example, even in families where the parents are married, parents who prefer boys may give less attention and nurturing to their daughters. They may also devote fewer financial resources to their education and health. In this sense, our results are related to the existing literature that documents an unequal intra-household allocation of resources. [The Demand for Sons, GORDON B. DAHL University of California, San Diego, and NBER and ENRICO MORETTI University of California, Berkeley, and NBER,2008]