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Testing for Son Preference in South Africa


  • Lata Gangadharan
  • Pushkar Maitra


Evidence from many developing countries suggests that parents have a preference for sons over daughters. This has been referred to as son preference. This paper uses individual level unit record data to test the son preference hypothesis in South Africa. We use an accelerated hazard model to estimate the duration between successive births and our results indicate that son preference exists only for the Indian community in South Africa. Indian households are observed to have a higher duration between children following the birth of a son, irrespective of the number of children they already have. For the rest of the population, there is very little evidence of son preference. Preference for sons could be the result of a combination of factors including religious beliefs and social customs such as the dowry system, lineage and familial and kinship ties. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Lata Gangadharan & Pushkar Maitra, 2003. "Testing for Son Preference in South Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 12(3), pages 371-416, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jafrec:v:12:y:2003:i:3:p:371-416

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-766, May.
    2. Stefan Dercon & Pramila Krishnan, 2000. "Vulnerability, seasonality and poverty in Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(6), pages 25-53.
    3. Ravallion, Martin & Bidani, Benu, 1994. "How Robust Is a Poverty Profile?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(1), pages 75-102, January.
    4. Hentschel, J. & Lanjouw, P., 1996. "Constructing an Indicator of Consumption for the Analysis of Poverty. Principles and Illustrations with Reference to Ecuador," Papers 127, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
    5. Angus Deaton & Salman Zaidi, 2002. "Guidelines for Constructing Consumption Aggregates for Welfare Analysis," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14101.
    6. Kakwani, Nanak, 1993. "Statistical Inference in the Measurement of Poverty," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(4), pages 632-639, November.
    7. Dercon, Stefan & Mekonnen, Tadesse, 1999. "A comparison of poverty in rural and urban Ethiopia," Ethiopian Journal of Economics, Ethiopian Economics Association, vol. 8(1).
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    Cited by:

    1. Lambert, Sylvie & Rossi, Pauline, 2016. "Sons as widowhood insurance: Evidence from Senegal," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 113-127.
    2. Tarun Jain, 2014. "Where There Is a Will: Fertility Behavior and Sex Bias in Large Families," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(2), pages 393-423.
    3. Silvia Helena Barcellos & Leandro S. Carvalho & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2014. "Child Gender and Parental Investments in India: Are Boys and Girls Treated Differently?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 157-189, January.
    4. Lindskog, Annika, 2013. "The effect of siblings’ education on school-entry in the Ethiopian highlands," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 45-68.
    5. Margaret Irving, 2008. "Gender patterns in household health expenditure allocation: A study of South Africa," Economics Series Working Papers CSAE WPS/2008-32, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    6. Rossi, Pauline & Rouanet, Léa, 2015. "Gender Preferences in Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Fertility Choices," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 326-345.
    7. Aparna Lhila & Kosali Simon, 2008. "Prenatal health investment decisions: Does the child’s sex matter?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(4), pages 885-905, November.
    8. repec:spr:jopoec:v:31:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0668-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Chew, Soo Hong & Yi, Junjian & Zhang, Junsen & Zhong, Songfa, 2017. "Risk Aversion and Son Preference: Experimental Evidence from Chinese Twin Parents," IZA Discussion Papers 10519, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. van der Stoep, Gabrielle, 2008. "Childbearing and labour force participation in South Africa: sibling composition as an identification strategy?," MPRA Paper 52908, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • C41 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Duration Analysis; Optimal Timing Strategies
    • C24 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Truncated and Censored Models; Switching Regression Models; Threshold Regression Models


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