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O Sister, Where Art Thou? The Role of Son Preference and Sex Choice: Evidence from Immigrants to Canada

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  • Douglas Almond
  • Lena Edlund
  • Kevin Milligan

Abstract

Sex ratios at birth are above the biologically normal level in a number of Asian countries, notably India and China. Standard explanations include poverty and a cultural emphasis on male offspring. We study Asian immigrants to Canada using Census data, focussing on sex ratios across generations and religious groups. We find sex ratios to be normal at first parity, but rising with parity if there were no previous son. Since these immigrants are neither poor nor live in a society tolerant of sex discrimination/sex selection, our findings are more consistent with a preference for sons per se (and not for sons as a means to, e.g., old age support). Additionally, we uncover strong differences by religious affiliation that align with historical differences in doctrine concerning infanticide. Comparing across generations of Asian immigrants, we find fertility responds strongly to the sex composition of older children for first generation families. For the second generation, expression of son preference through the fertility channel is muted whereas sex selection seems to persist.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15391.

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Date of creation: Oct 2009
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Publication status: published as Son Preference and the Persistence of Culture: Evidence from South and East Asian Immigrants to Canada (joint with Douglas Almond and Kevin Milligan). Population and Development Review , March 2013, pp. 75-95.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15391

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  1. Francine Blau & Lawrence Kahn & Albert Liu & Kerry Papps, 2013. "The transmission of women’s fertility, human capital, and work orientation across immigrant generations," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 405-435, April.
  2. Jason Abrevaya, 2009. "Are There Missing Girls in the United States? Evidence from Birth Data," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 1-34, April.
  3. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2008. "The Demand for Sons," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1085-1120.
  4. Das Gupta, Monica & Chung, Woojin & Shuzhuo, Li, 2009. "Is there an incipient turnaround in Asia's"missing girls"phenomenon ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4846, The World Bank.
  5. Woojin Chung & Monica Das Gupta, 2007. "The Decline of Son Preference in South Korea: The Roles of Development and Public Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(4), pages 757-783.
  6. Aydemir, Abdurrahman & Sweetman, Arthur, 2006. "First and Second Generation Immigrant Educational Attainment and Labor Market Outcomes: A Comparison of the United States and Canada," IZA Discussion Papers 2298, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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Cited by:
  1. Bejenariu, Simona & Mitrut, Andreea, 2012. "Austerity Measures and Infant Health. Lessons from an Unexpected Wage Cut Policy," Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies 2012:5, Uppsala University, Department of Economics, revised 10 Oct 2013.
  2. Zimmermann, Laura, 2012. "It's a Boy! Women and Non-Monetary Benefits from a Son in India," IZA Discussion Papers 6847, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Anukriti, S, 2014. "The Fertility-Sex Ratio Trade-off: Unintended Consequences of Financial Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 8044, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Duflo, Esther, 2012. "Women's Empowerment and Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 8734, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Anukriti, S & Kumler, Todd J., 2014. "Tariffs, Social Status, and Gender in India," IZA Discussion Papers 7969, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Sweetman, Arthur & van Ours, Jan C., 2014. "Immigration: What about the Children and Grandchildren?," IZA Discussion Papers 7919, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Delia Furtado & Miriam Marcén & Almudena Sevilla, 2013. "Does Culture Affect Divorce? Evidence From European Immigrants in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 50(3), pages 1013-1038, June.
  8. Almudena Sevilla-Sanz & Delia Furtado and Miriam Marcen, 2010. "Does Culture Affect Divorce Decisions? Evidence from European Immigrants in the US," Economics Series Working Papers 495, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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