Tuesday, December 30, 2008

demand for sons and daughters

Gordon Dahl (UCSD) and Enrico Moretti (Berkeley) consider whether there is a larger demand for sons than for daughters in the United States. It may be impossible to design a single empirical test that will answer this question, and the authors do not attempt to do so. Instead, the authors conduct a number of separate tests that, taken together, provide significant evidence that parents do prefer boys. From their abstract:

In this paper, we show that child gender affects the marital status, 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 consequences for affected children...We show that the number of children is significantly higher in families with a first-born girl.
The paper was recently published in the Review of Economic Studies. View it here. Or here.

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