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Development, modernization, and son preference in fertility decisions

  • Filmer, Deon
  • Friedman, Jed
  • Schady, Norbert

A family preference for sons over daughters may manifest itself in different ways, including higher mortality, worse health status, or lower educational attainment among girls. This study focuses on one measure of son preference in the developing world, namely the likelihood of continued childbearing given the gender composition of existing children in the family. The authors use an unusually large data set, covering 65 countries and approximately 5 million births. The analysis shows that son preference is apparent in many regions of the developing world and is particularly large in South Asia and in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Modernization does not appear to reduce son preference. For example, in South Asia son preference is larger for women with more education and is increasing over time. The explanation for these patterns appears to be that latent son preference in childbearing is more likely to manifest itself when fertility levels are low. As a result of son preference, girls tend to grow up with significantly more siblings than boys do, which may have implications for their wellbeing if there are quantity-quality trade-offs that result in fewer material and emotional resources allocated to children in larger families.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4716.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4716
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  1. 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.
  2. Fred Arnold, 1985. "Measuring the effect of sex preference on fertility: The case of Korea," Demography, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 280-288, May.
  3. John Knodel & Malinee Wongsith, 1991. "Family size and children’s education in Thailand: Evidence from a national sample," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 119-131, February.
  4. Sandra E. Black & Paul G. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2004. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Composition on Children's Education," NBER Working Papers 10720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rohini Pande, 2003. "Selective gender differences in childhood nutrition and immunization in rural India: The role of siblings," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 395-418, August.
  6. Jean Drèze & Mamta Murthi, 2001. "Fertility, Education, and Development: Evidence from India," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 27(1), pages 33-63.
  7. Pong, S.L., 1994. "Sex Preference and Fertility in Peninsular Malaysia," Papers 94-13, RAND - Reprint Series.
  8. Horton, Susan, 1986. "Child nutrition and family size in the Philippines," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 161-176, September.
  9. Wolfe, Barbara L & Behrman, Jere R, 1986. "Child Quantity and Quality in a Developing Country: Family Background, Endogenous Tastes, and Biological Supply Factors," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(4), pages 703-20, July.
  10. Eric Jensen & Dennis Ahlburg, 2002. "Family Size, Unwantedness, And Child Health And Health Care Utilisation In Indonesia," Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(1), pages 43-59.
  11. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Hanushek, Eric A, 1992. "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 84-117, February.
  13. Haddad, Lawrence & Hoddinott, John & Alderman, Harold & DEC, 1994. "Intrahousehold resource allocation : an overview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1255, The World Bank.
  14. Gunnar Andersson & Karsten Hank & Marit Rønsen & Andres Vikat, 2006. "Gendering family composition: Sex preferences for children and childbearing behavior in the Nordic countries," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 255-267, May.
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