Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 873–893 | Cite as

Son preference in Japan

  • Wataru KureishiEmail author
  • Midori Wakabayashi
Original Paper


We examine the sex preference in Japan, using Japanese microdata, and find that parents in the 1920–1939 cohort have a lexicographic son preference. Further, the lexicographic son preference disappears in subsequent cohorts and a mixed preference is observed in parents with two children. These results are supported when the parents’ socioeconomic background is considered. Cohort effects such as weakening son preference and emerging mixed preference are observed. Moreover, when husbands are the eldest sons, a lexicographic son preference is observed only in the 1920–1939 cohort, although it persists in the subsequent cohorts when husbands are farmers/self-employed workers.


Son preference Sex preference Fertility 

JEL Classification

J11 J12 J13 



We are greatly indebted to anonymous referees and Charles Yuji Horioka for their kind advice, comments, and discussion throughout the process of writing this paper. We would also like to thank Tetsushi Homma, Daiji Kawaguchi, Colin McKenzie, Hideki Mizukami, James Raymo, Kei Sakata, Shizuka Sekita, Sawako Shirahase, Keiko Tamada, and the seminar participants at the University of Toyama, the Japanese Economic Association meeting of September 2007, and Prof. Horioka’s graduate seminar for their helpful comments and discussions. In addition, we thank the National Family Research of Japan and the Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo (SSJ Data Archive), for permitting us to use data from the study “Trails of Families in Post-War Japan” (in Japanese, Sengo Nihon no Kazoku no Ayumi) (SSJDA0400). We are also indebted to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of the Japanese government for the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (numbers 18330068 and 19330062) for supporting this research.


  1. Ahn N (1995) Measuring the value of children by sex and age using a dynamic programming model. Rev Econ Stud 62(3):361–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angrist JD, Evans WN (1998) Children and their parents’ labor supply: evidence from exogenous variation in family size. Am Econ Rev 88(3):450–477Google Scholar
  3. Arnold F, Liu Z (1986) Sex preference, fertility, and family planning in China. Popul Dev Rev 12(2):221–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arroyo CR, Zhang J (1997) Dynamic microeconomic models of fertility choice: a survey. J Popul Econ 10(1):23–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ben-Porath Y, Welch F (1976) Do sex preferences really matter? Q J Econ 90(2):285–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clark S (2000) Son preference and sex composition of children: evidence from India. Demography 37(1):95-108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cox DR (1972) Regression models and life tables. J R Stat Soc, Ser B 34:187–220Google Scholar
  8. Graham MJ, Larsen U, Xu X (1998) Son preference in Anhui Province, China. Int Fam Plann Perspect 24(2):72–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grambsch PM, Therneau TM (1994) Proportional hazards tests and diagnostics based on weighted residuals. Biometrika 81(3):515–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gray E, Duckworth D, Nakajima Y (1980) The human sex ratio and factors influencing family size in Japan. J Heredity 71(6):411–415Google Scholar
  11. Gu B, Roy K (1995) Sex ratio at birth in China, with reference to other areas in East Asia: what we know? Asia-Pac Popul J 10(3):17–42Google Scholar
  12. Hank K, Kohler HP (2000) Gender preferences for children in Europe: empirical results from 17 FFS countries. Demographic Research 2(1)Google Scholar
  13. Haughton D (1997) Packages for estimating finite mixtures: a review. Am Stat 51(2):194–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haughton D, Haughton J (1996) Using a mixture model to detect son preference in Vietnam. J Biosoc Sci 28(3):355–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haughton J, Haughton D (1998) Are simple tests of son preference useful? An evaluation using data from Vietnam. J Popul Econ 11(4):495–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Horioka CY, Fujisaki H, Watanabe W, Kouno T (2000) Are Americans more altruistic than the Japanese? A U.S.–Japan comparison of saving and bequest motives. Int Econ J 14(1):1–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hull TH (1990) Recent trends in sex ratios at birth in China. Popul Dev Rev 16(1):63–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Japan: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (2008) Vital statistics. Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  19. Konrad KA, Kunemund H, Lommerud KE, Robledo JR (2002) Geography of the family. Am Econ Rev 92(4):981–998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Larsen U, Chung W, Gupta MD (1998) Fertility and son preference in Korea. Popul Stud 52(3):317-325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Osman MI (1985) A note on the human sex ratio and factors influencing family size in Japan. J Heredity 76(2):141Google Scholar
  22. Park CB, Cho N (1995) Consequences of son preference in a low-fertility society: imbalance of the sex ratio at birth in Korea. Popul Dev Rev 21(1):59–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sakai H (1989) Kodomo no Seibetsu ga Shusshou ni Ataeru Eikyo ni Tsuite (Child-sex effects on further births). Jinkou Mondai Kenkyuu (Journal of Population Problems) 189:18–30 (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  24. Sakai H (1989) Gendai Nihonjin no Seibetsu Senkou ni tsuite: 2 shi no seibetsu patan to 2 shi shusshou no kankei kara (Sex preference for children among couples in Japan: relationship between the sex sequence of parity two and third birth). Shakai Shinrigaku Kenkyu (Research in Social Psychology) 4(2):117–125 (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  25. Sakai H (1992) Kinnen ni okeru Kodomo no Seibetsu Senkou no Doukou to sono Shakai–Keizaiteki Sai (Recent trend in sex preferences for children among Japanese couples and their socio-economic differences). Shakai Shinrigaku Kenkyu (Research in Social Psychology) 7(2):75–84 (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  26. Tsay WJ, Chu CYC (2005) The pattern of birth spacing during Taiwan’s demographic transition. J Popul Econ 18(2):323–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tuljapurkar S, Li N, Feldman MW (1995) High sex ratios in China’s future. Science 267:874–876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zhou Y, Zheng Z (2005) Sex ratio of reported births between 1910 and 1969 in China. Presented at the CEPED-CICRED-INED Seminar on Female Deficit in Asia: Trends and Perspectives, Singapore, December 5–7, 2005. 16 pGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The National Institute of Population and Social Security ResearchChiyoda-kuJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of EconomicsOsaka Prefecture UniversitySakaiJapan

Personalised recommendations