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Girls unwanted – The role of parents’ child-specific sex preference for children’s early mental development

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  • Ebert, Cara
  • Vollmer, Sebastian

Abstract

We propose a novel son preference measure that relates the preference to a specific child. We find child-specific son preference to be more common among later born children and in families with fewer sons. Using the novel measure and an interaction instrumental variables approach, we estimate a penalty in early mental functions for unwanted girls of 0.7 standard deviations. This penalty appears to be partially driven by discrimination against girls and partially by pampering of boys. Children’s health and parental inputs do not mediate the effect from son preference to mental development. Our findings highlight the relevance of parents’ attitudes for a nurturing home environment and healthy brain development.

Suggested Citation

  • Ebert, Cara & Vollmer, Sebastian, 2022. "Girls unwanted – The role of parents’ child-specific sex preference for children’s early mental development," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:82:y:2022:i:c:s0167629622000108
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2022.102590
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Son preference; Early childhood; Mental development; Fertility; India;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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