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Children’s Sex and the Happiness of Parents

Author

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  • Rachel Margolis

    (The University of Western Ontario)

  • Mikko Myrskyla

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
    London School of Economics
    University of Helsinki)

Abstract

Demographers are interested in sex preferences for children because they can skew sex ratios and influence population-level fertility, parenting behavior, and family outcomes. Based on parity progression ratios, in most European countries, there are no sex preferences for a first child, but a strong preference for mixed-sex children. We hypothesize that mixed-sex preferences also influence parental happiness. Parents’ disappointment with a second child of the same sex as the first could have negative effects for parents and children. We use longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel and the British Household Panel Study to examine parental happiness by the children’s sex and analyze whether these effects differ by parent’s sex, age, nativity, and educational attainment. The results are only partially consistent with predictions from parity progression ratios. As expected, parental happiness does not depend on the sex of the first child. We find weak evidence suggesting that two boys decrease happiness, but the findings are not consistent across German and British data or across subpopulations. Moreover, two girls do not reduce happiness. Although sex preferences influence fertility, they appear to have little impact on happiness, perhaps because of unobserved positive factors associated with having same-sex children.

Suggested Citation

  • Rachel Margolis & Mikko Myrskyla, 2016. "Children’s Sex and the Happiness of Parents," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(3), pages 403-420, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:eurpop:v:32:y:2016:i:3:d:10.1007_s10680-016-9387-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s10680-016-9387-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rachel Margolis & Mikko Myrskylä, 2015. "Parental Well-being Surrounding First Birth as a Determinant of Further Parity Progression," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(4), pages 1147-1166, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yi Chen & Rong Huang & Yuanping Lu & Kangyi Zhang, 2021. "Education Fever in China: Children’s Academic Performance and Parents’ Life Satisfaction," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 927-954, February.
    2. Bai, Jin & Tang, Jue & Xie, Qiang, 2022. "Does children’s marriage matter for parents' mental health?Evidence from China," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    3. Younghwan Song & Jia Gao, 2023. "Do fathers have son preference in the United States? Evidence from paternal subjective well-being," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 1083-1117, September.
    4. Qianqian Shang & Quanbao Jiang & Yongkun Yin, 2022. "How Does Children's Sex Affect Parental Sex Preference: Preference Adaptation and Learning," Working Papers wp2022_2202, CEMFI.
    5. Serhii Maksymovych & William Appleman & Zurab Abramishvili, 2023. "Parental gender preference in the Balkans and Scandinavia: gender bias or differential costs?," Journal of Population Research, Springer, vol. 40(4), pages 1-48, December.
    6. Jianghua Liu & Zhongliang Zhou, 2019. "Mothers’ Subjective Well-Being after Having a Second Child in Current China: A Case Study of Xi’an City," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 16(20), pages 1-14, October.
    7. Dolan, Paul & Moran, Cahal & Outes, Ingo, 2023. "All we want is a healthy baby – well, and one that is the opposite sex to what we have already1," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 106(C).

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