The Historical Origins of Son Preference: Patrilocality and Missing Women
56 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 19, 2021
This study examines the historical origins of son preference. I test a hypothesis that son preference emerges from humanity’s adoption of intensive agriculture for subsistence. This increases the incentive to adopt patrilocal residence norms after marriage, and for sons to care for their parents during old age. Consistent with this hypothesis, I present evidence that the descendants of societies which engaged in intensive agriculture have higher rates of coresidence with sons and higher sex ratios at birth today. This is found when looking across countries, within countries across regions, and within regions across ethnic groups. The results highlight the connection between historical subsistence patterns and modern demographic outcomes.
Keywords: sex ratios, son preference, patrilocality
JEL Classification: J13, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation