Is there Still Son Preference in the United States?

71 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2019

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

Jason Cook

University of Pittsburgh

Peter Brummund

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

Miriam Larson-Koester

Cornell University

Multiple version iconThere are 4 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

In this paper, we use 2008-2013 American Community Survey data to update and further probe evidence on son preference in the United States. In light of the substantial increase in immigration, we examine this question separately for natives and immigrants. Dahl and Moretti (2008) found earlier evidence consistent with son preference in that having a female first child raised fertility and increased the probability that the family was living without a father. We find that for our more recent period, having a female first child still raises the likelihood of living without a father, but is instead associated with lower fertility, particularly for natives. Thus, by the 2008-2013 period, any apparent son preference in fertility decisions appears to have been outweighed by factors such as cost concerns in raising girls or increased female bargaining power. In contrast, some evidence for son preference in fertility persists among immigrants. Immigrant families that have a female first child have significantly higher fertility and are more likely to be living without a father (though not significantly so). Further, gender inequity in source countries is associated with son preference in fertility among immigrants. For both first and second generation immigrants, the impact of a female first-born on fertility is more pronounced for immigrants from source countries with less gender equity. Finally, we find no evidence of sex selection for the general population of natives and immigrants, suggesting that it does not provide an alternative mechanism to account for the disappearance of a positive fertility effect for natives.

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

JEL Classification: J110, J120, J130, J150, J160

Suggested Citation

Blau, Francine D. and Kahn, Lawrence M. and Cook, Jason and Brummund, Peter and Larson-Koester, Miriam, Is there Still Son Preference in the United States? (2019). CESifo Working Paper No. 7948. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3493659

Francine D. Blau (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Lawrence M. Kahn

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

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

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jason Cook

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

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Peter Brummund

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

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

Miriam Larson-Koester

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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