Is There Still Son Preference in the United States?

63 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2017

See all articles by Francine D. Blau

Francine D. Blau

Cornell University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Lawrence M. Kahn

Cornell University - School of Industrial and Labor Relations; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Peter Brummund

University of Alabama - Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies

Jason Cook

University of Pittsburgh

Miriam Larson-Koester

Cornell University

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Abstract

In this paper, we use 2008-2013 American Community Survey data to update and further probe Dahl and Moretti's (2008) son preference results, which found evidence that having a female first child increased the probability of single female headship and raised fertility. In light of the substantial increase in immigration, we examine this question separately for immigrants and natives. Among the population in the aggregate, as well as among the native-born separately, consistent with Dahl and Moretti (2008), we find that having a female first child raises the likelihood that the mother is a single parent.However, in sharp contrast to Dahl and Moretti (2008), we find that having a female first child is actually associated with lower fertility. Thus, by the 2008-2013 period, any apparent son preference among natives in their fertility decisions appears to be outweighed by factors such as cost concerns in raising girls. This change may be plausible in light of the reversal of the gender gap in college attendance beginning in the 1980s (Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko 2006), making girls more costly. For immigrants, we also find evidence that having a female first child contributes to female headship, with an effect that has the same magnitude as that for natives although is not statistically significant.However, in contrast to natives, we do find a positive fertility effect, suggesting son preference in fertility among this group. This interpretation is further supported by evidence that, for both first and second generation immigrants (second generation immigrants were examined using the Current Population Surveys) having a girl has a more positive effect on fertility for those whose source countries have lower values of the World Economic Forum's Gender Equity Index, or lower female labor force participation rates and higher sex (boy-to-girl) ratios among births. We also examine sex selection and find no evidence that sex selection has spread beyond the race groups identified in previous work (e.g., Almond and Edlund 2008).

Keywords: gender, son preference, family structure, fertility, sex selection, immigrants

JEL Classification: J1, J11, J12, J13, J15, J16

Suggested Citation

Blau, Francine D. and Kahn, Lawrence M. and Brummund, Peter and Cook, Jason and Larson-Koester, Miriam, Is There Still Son Preference in the United States?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3041799

Francine D. Blau (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/directory/fdb4/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

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Lawrence M. Kahn

Cornell University - School of Industrial and Labor Relations ( email )

265 Ives Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-3901
United States
607-255-0510 (Phone)
607-255-4496 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Peter Brummund

University of Alabama - Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies ( email )

P.O. Box 870244
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Jason Cook

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Miriam Larson-Koester

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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