, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 95-108

Son preference and sex composition of children: Evidence from india

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Abstract

Although the effect of son preference on sex composition of children ever born is undetectable in national-level estimates that aggregate across all families, this article provides empirical evidence from India that son preference has two pronounced and predictable family-level effects on the sex composition of children ever born. First, data from India show that smaller families have a significantly higher proportion of sons than larger families. Second, socially and economically disadvantaged couples and couples from the northern region of India not only want but also attain a higher proportion of sons, if the effects of family size are controlled.

This research was partially supported by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Inequality and Poverty in a Broader Perspective. I am particularly grateful to Christina Paxson and Sara Curran for their encouragement and significant contributions to this article. I also thank Jacob Levy, Angus Deaton, Jean Dreze, Noreen Goldman, Deborah Peikes, and four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Earlier versions of this work were presented at the seminar of the Research Program in Development Studies/Office of Population Research at Princeton University and at the 1998 annual meetings of the Population Association of America, held in Chicago.