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O Sister, Where Art Thou? The Role of Son Preference and Sex Choice: Evidence from Immigrants to Canada

  • Douglas Almond
  • Lena Edlund
  • Kevin Milligan

Sex ratios at birth are above the biologically normal level in a number of Asian countries, notably India and China. Standard explanations include poverty and a cultural emphasis on male offspring. We study Asian immigrants to Canada using Census data, focussing on sex ratios across generations and religious groups. We find sex ratios to be normal at first parity, but rising with parity if there were no previous son. Since these immigrants are neither poor nor live in a society tolerant of sex discrimination/sex selection, our findings are more consistent with a preference for sons per se (and not for sons as a means to, e.g., old age support). Additionally, we uncover strong differences by religious affiliation that align with historical differences in doctrine concerning infanticide. Comparing across generations of Asian immigrants, we find fertility responds strongly to the sex composition of older children for first generation families. For the second generation, expression of son preference through the fertility channel is muted whereas sex selection seems to persist.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15391.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15391.

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Date of creation: Oct 2009
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Publication status: published as Son Preference and the Persistence of Culture: Evidence from South and East Asian Immigrants to Canada (joint with Douglas Almond and Kevin Milligan). Population and Development Review , March 2013, pp. 75-95.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15391
Note: CH
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  1. Aydemir, Abdurrahman & Sweetman, Arthur, 2006. "First and Second Generation Immigrant Educational Attainment and Labor Market Outcomes: A Comparison of the United States and Canada," IZA Discussion Papers 2298, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Blau, Francine D. & Kahn, Lawrence M. & Liu, Albert Yung-Hsu & Papps, Kerry L., 2008. "The Transmission of Women's Fertility, Human Capital and Work Orientation across Immigrant Generations," IZA Discussion Papers 3732, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Woojin Chung & Monica Das Gupta, 2007. "The Decline of Son Preference in South Korea: The Roles of Development and Public Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(4), pages 757-783.
  4. Jason Abrevaya, 2009. "Are There Missing Girls in the United States? Evidence from Birth Data," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 1-34, April.
  5. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2008. "The Demand for Sons," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1085-1120.
  6. Das Gupta, Monica & Chung, Woojin & Shuzhuo, Li, 2009. "Is there an incipient turnaround in Asia's"missing girls"phenomenon ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4846, The World Bank.
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