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Understanding parental gender preferences in advanced societies: lessons from Sweden and Finland


  • Gunnar Andersson

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Karsten Hank

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Andres Vikat

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)


Extending recent research on parental gender preferences in the Nordic countries, this study uses unique register data from Finland and Sweden (1971-1999) that provide us with the opportunity to compare childbearing dynamics and possible underlying sex preferences among natives and national minorities, namely Finnish-born immigrants in Sweden and members of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. Moreover, our Swedish data allow us to investigate regional and educational differences in child-sex specific fertility behavior of two-child mothers in 1981-1999. For Finland, we observe a continuous boy preference among the national majority and the Swedish-speaking minority as reflected in higher third-birth rates of mothers of two girls than of mothers of two boys. Evidence of similar preferences is found for Finnish-born migrants in Sweden, where the native-born population appears to have developed a girl preference, though. In all cases, we also observe clear indications of a preference for having at least one child of each sex. Generally speaking, our findings support an interpretation of parental gender preferences as a longstanding cultural phenomenon, related to country of childhood socialization rather than language group. Our analysis of regional and educational differentials in Sweden reveals no evidence which supports diffusion theories of persistence and change in parents’ sex preferences for children.

Suggested Citation

  • Gunnar Andersson & Karsten Hank & Andres Vikat, 2006. "Understanding parental gender preferences in advanced societies: lessons from Sweden and Finland," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2006-019, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2006-019

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Manski, C.F., 1992. "Identification Problems in the Social Sciences," Working papers 9217, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    2. Shelly Lundberg, 2005. "Sons, Daughters, and Parental Behaviour," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 340-356, Autumn.
    3. Gunnar Andersson & Jan M. Hoem & Ann Zofie Duvander, 2006. "Social differentials in speed-premium effects in childbearing in Sweden," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 14(4), pages 51-70, January.
    4. repec:cai:poeine:pope_301_0133 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Seidl, Christian, 1995. "The Desire for a Son Is the Father of Many Daughters: A Sex Ratio Paradox," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 8(2), pages 185-203, May.
    6. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage," NBER Working Papers 10281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    Finland; Sweden; fertility; sex preference;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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