The Roots of Modern Sex Ratios

35 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2016 Last revised: 15 Nov 2021

See all articles by Jesse Anttila-Hughes

Jesse Anttila-Hughes

University of San Francisco

Patrick Krause

University of California, Berkeley - Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA)

Yaniv Stopnitzky

University of San Francisco - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 30, 2021

Abstract

While most measures of female empowerment improve or remain unchanged with economic development, the male bias in sex ratios at birth has instead increased in many societies. We identify cultural variation in male-favoring, patriarchal norms following Boserup's hypothesis that the plough increases male comparative advantage in farm labor, combining data on historical plough adoption with detailed birth records from 76 countries to show that the legacy of plough use explains a large portion of the variation in modern sex ratios. We present evidence that plough countries' male-skewed sex ratios are achieved through a mix of in-utero sex-selection, son-based stopping rules, and increased mortality suggestive of neglect or infanticide, and that male-bias intensifies with lower fertility, a pattern not found in non-plough countries. The cultural transmission of plough-driven son preference extends into the sex ratios at birth among US born children of immigrants. Our results highlight the interaction between fertility decisions, historical cultural norms, and economic development in determining modern sex ratios.

Keywords: Sex ratio, plough, agriculture, fertility, gender, cultural evolution

JEL Classification: D03, J16, N30

Suggested Citation

Anttila-Hughes, Jesse and Krause, Patrick and Stopnitzky, Yaniv, The Roots of Modern Sex Ratios (October 30, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2871794 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2871794

Jesse Anttila-Hughes

University of San Francisco ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

Patrick Krause

University of California, Berkeley - Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) ( email )

207 Giannini Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-3310
United States

Yaniv Stopnitzky (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - Department of Economics ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080
United States

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