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Hidden consequences of a first-born boy for mothers

  • Ichino, Andrea
  • Lindström, Elly-Ann
  • Viviano, Eliana

We show that in the US, the UK, Italy and Sweden women whose first child is a boy are less likely to work in a typical week and work fewer hours than women with first-born girls. The puzzle is why women in these countries react in this way to the sex of their first child, which is chosen randomly by nature. We consider two explanations. As Dahl and Moretti (2008) we show that first-born boys positively affect the probability that a marriage survives, but differently from them and from the literature on developing countries, we show that after a first-born boy the probability that women have more children increases. In these advanced economies the negative impact on fertility deriving from the fact that fewer pregnancies are needed to get a boy is more than compensated by the positive effect on fertility deriving from the greater stability of marriages, which is neglected by studies that focus on married women only.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8354.

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Date of creation: Apr 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8354
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  1. Donald Cox, 2007. "Biological Basics and the Economics of the Family," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 91-108, Spring.
  2. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2008. "The Demand for Sons," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1085-1120.
  3. Bedard, Kelly & Deschenes, Olivier, 2003. "Sex Preferences, Marital Dissolution and the Economic Status of Women," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt07g2372x, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  4. Alexander M. Gelber & Joshua W. Mitchell, 2009. "Taxes and Time Allocation: Evidence from Single Women," NBER Working Papers 15583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Seema Jayachandran & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2011. "Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less than Boys? Evidence and Implications for Child Health in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1485-1538.
  6. Elizabeth O. Ananat & Guy Michaels, 2008. "The Effect of Marital Breakup on the Income Distribution of Women with Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 611-629.
  7. Hyunbae Chun & Jeungil Oh, 2002. "An instrumental variable estimate of the effect of fertility on the labour force participation of married women," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(10), pages 631-634.
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