Skip to main content

Missing time with parents: son preference among Asians in the USA

Abstract

We study prevalence of son preference in families of East and South Asian origin living in the USA by investigating parental time investments in children using American Time Use Surveys. Estimates show that East and South Asian mothers spend an additional hour of quality time per day with their young (aged 0–2 years) sons than with young daughters; son preference in mothers’ time allocation declines as children get older. East and South Asian fathers’ time with young children is gender neutral. We find gender specialization in time with children aged 6–17 with fathers spending more time with sons and mothers spending more time with daughters.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. See for instance, Chen et al. (1981), Chung and Das Gupta (2007), Coale and Banister (1994), Das Gupta et al. (2009), Guilmoto (2009) Jayachandran and Kuziemko (2011), Marcoux (2002), Nishikiori et al. (2006), Pande (2003), Sen (1990), UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2005), and World Bank (2012).

  2. Indian immigrant women in the USA who seek prenatal sex selection services cite pressure from family members, threat of abuse, and an upbringing that emphasizes the importance of sons as reasons for the women’s desire for sons (Puri et al. 2011).

  3. Studies of gender discrimination in China and India find that improved earnings and employment opportunities for women are linked to decreased female child mortality (Ram 1984; Rosenzweig and Schultz 1982), increased investments in education of girls (Jensen 2012; Qian 2008), and improvement in girls’ nutrition (Jensen 2012).

  4. Female infanticide—the starkest manifestation of parental bias—has also been observed in parts of East and South Asia but it is often difficult to establish its prevalence (George et al. 1992; Miller 1987).

  5. Pabilonia and Ward-Batts (2007) find that Asian immigrants to the USA work less, compared to whites, after the birth of a son versus that of a daughter, and they attribute it to decreased specialization within Asian families after the birth of a son. Gangadharan and Maitra (2003) find that couples of Indian descent in South Africa wait longer to have another child after the birth of a son which is not the case for couples from other ethnic backgrounds.

  6. According to ATUS documentation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “a designated person is selected randomly from each household to participate in the interview. An eligible person is a civilian household member at least 15 years of age. All eligible persons within a sample household have the same probability of being selected as the ATUS designated person. No substitutes or proxy responses are allowed. All responses must be obtained directly from this designated respondent.”

  7. About 4% of the respondents in our sample are grandparents; all others are parents. For convenience, we use the term parents to describe both.

  8. In our data only 7% of East and South Asian families are headed by single parents compared to 21–23% single parent headed families for the other three groups. In supplementary analysis, we repeated our analysis including all family types and the results were similar and we discuss some of the results in footnote 16.

  9. Restricting the analysis to US non-Hispanic Whites leaves the results largely unchanged.

  10. Following Price (2008), quality time are activities coded by ATUS as “physical care for children,” “reading to/with children,” “playing with children, not sports,” “arts and crafts with children,” “playing sports with children,” “talking with/listening to children,” “looking after children,” “homework,” “home schooling of children,” “eating and drinking,” “attending performing arts,” “attending museums,” and “participation in religious practices.”

  11. All analyses in this paper use unweighted data.

  12. We also ran models with year of observation and weekend/weekday controls, and the results were similar to models that did not include these controls.

  13. We ran models with the restrictions and the results were similar to those without the restriction.

  14. It may also result in a disproportionate fraction of two-child families with first-born girls and second-born boys. We checked our data and find that the proportion of families with first-born boys is almost the same in the two samples: 50.32% in the fixed effects sample and 51% in the entire sample.

  15. To test this assumption, we examine whether observed family characteristics jointly predict the gender of the child for three groups of children: all children less than 18, all children less than 6 and all children less than 2. The p value for a test that all covariates are jointly zero is 0.001 for all children, 0.24 for children < 6, and 0.69 for children < 6. This suggests that family characteristics do a poor job at predicting the gender of young children.

  16. We did all analyses using total time spent and the results were qualitatively the same as those for quality time.

  17. In additional analysis, we studied prevalence of gender bias in West Asian/Middle East families and found no evidence of son-preference among fathers and some daughter preference among mothers from West Asia and the Middle East. The results from these analyses are in Table 7. The sample of first- and second-generation immigrants of West Asian/Middle-Eastern origin has 59 female respondents with 78 children aged 0–5 years, 66 male respondents with 89 children aged 0–5 years, 85 female respondents with 154 children aged 6–17 years, and 89 male respondents 166 children aged 6–17 years. Because the sample size is small, these results should be interpreted with caution.

  18. We also conducted the analysis presented in Table 2 on all families, i.e., including single-parent families, and obtained similar results.

  19. We also estimated model 1 for other outcomes. The results were similar to those reported using model 2. For brevity, we do not present those results but they can be provided upon request.

  20. The majority (86.5%) of East and South Asian mothers of children aged 0–5 are first-generation immigrants.

  21. We also conducted this analysis restricting samples to families with first born children aged 0–2 years. The point estimates were similar but mostly statistically insignificant.

  22. These results are not presented for the sake of brevity but are available from the authors upon request.

References

  • Abrevaya J (2009) Are there missing girls in the United States? Evidence from birth data. Am Econ J Appl Econ 1(2):1–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Almond D, Edlund L (2008) Son-biased sex ratios in the 2000 United States census. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105(15):5681–5682

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Almond D, Edlund L, Milligan K (2013) Son preference and the persistence of culture: evidence from South and East Asian immigrants to Canada. Popul Dev Rev 39(1):75–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barcellos SH, Carvalho L, Lleras-Muney A (2014) Child gender and parental investments in India: are boys and girls treated differently? Am Econ J Appl Econ 6(1):157–189

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bauer J, Wang F, Riley NE, Zhao X (1992) Gender inequality in urban China. Mod China 18(3):333–370

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Behrman JR (1997) Intrahousehold distribution and the family. In: Rosenzweig MR, Stark O (eds) Handbook of population and family economics. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 125–187

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Bharadwaj P, Lakdawala LK (2013) Discrimination begins in the womb: evidence of sex-selective prenatal investments. J Hum Resour 48(1):71–113

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown PH (2006) Parental education and investment in children’s human capital in rural China. Econ Dev Cult Chang 54(4):759–789

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen LC, Huq E, D'Souza S (1981) Sex bias in the family allocation of food and health care in rural Bangladesh. Popul Dev Rev 7(1):55–70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Choi H, Joesch JM, Lundberg S (2008) Sons, daughters, wives, and the labour market outcomes of West German men. Labour Econ 15(5):795–811

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chung W, Das Gupta M (2007) The decline of son preference in South Korea: the roles of development and public policy. Popul Dev Rev 33(4):757–783

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coale AJ, Banister J (1994) Five decades of missing females in China. Demography 31(3):459–479

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dahl GB, Moretti E (2008) The demand for sons. Rev Econ Stud 75(4):1085–1120

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dancer D, Rammohan A (2007) Determinants of schooling in Egypt: the role of gender and rural/urban residence. Oxf Dev Stud 35(2):171–195

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Das Gupta M (1987) Selective discrimination against female children in rural Punjab, India. Popul Dev Rev 13(1):77–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Das Gupta M, Zhenghua J, Bohua L, Zhenming X, Chung W, Hwa-Ok B (2003) Why is son preference so persistent in East and South Asia? A cross-country study of China, India and the Republic of Korea. J Dev Stud 40(2):153–187

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Das Gupta M, Chung W, Shuzhuo L (2009) Evidence for an incipient decline in numbers of missing girls in China and India. Popul Dev Rev 35(2):401-416

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Datar A, Kilburn MR, Loughran DS (2010) Endowments and parental investments in infancy and early childhood. Demography 47(1):145–162

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dayioğlu M, Kirdar MG, Tansel A (2009) Impact of sibship size, birth order and sex composition on school enrolment in urban Turkey*. Oxf Bull Econ Stat 71(3):399–426

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deaton A (2008) Height, health, and inequality: the distribution of adult heights in India. Am Econ Rev 98(2):468–474

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dyson T, Moore M (1983) On kinship structure, female autonomy, and demographic behavior in India. Popul Dev Rev 9(1):35–60

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • El-Badry M (1969) Higher female than male mortality in some countries of South Asia: a digest. J Am Stat Assoc 64(328):1234–1244

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gangadharan L, Maitra P (2003) Testing for son preference in South Africa. J Afr Econ 12(3):371–416

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • George S, Abel R, Miller BD (1992) Female infanticide in rural south India. Econ Polit Wkly 27(22):1153–1156

    Google Scholar 

  • Grant MJ, Behrman JR (2010) Gender gaps in educational attainment in less developed countries. Popul Dev Rev 36(1):71–89

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Guilmoto CZ (2009) The sex ratio transition in Asia. Popul Dev Rev 35(3):519–549

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haddad LJ, Peña C, Nishida C, Quisumbing AR, Slack A (1996) Food security and nutrition implications of intrahousehold bias: a review of literature. International Food Policy Research Institute FCND Discussion Paper no. 19. Retrieved from http://www.ifpri.org/publication/food-security-and-nutrition-implicationsintrahousehold-bias

  • Heckman JJ (2006) Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science 312(5782):1900–1902

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jayachandran S, Kuziemko I (2011) Why do mothers breastfeed girls less than boys? Evidence and implications for child health in India. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 126(3):1485-1538

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jensen RT (2010) Economic opportunities and gender differences in human capital: experimental evidence for India. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series no. 16021

  • Jensen R (2012) Do labor market opportunities affect young women's work and family decisions? Experimental evidence from India. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 127(2):753-792

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kes A, Swaminathan H (2006) Gender and time poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. In: Blackden CM, Wodon Q (eds) Gender, time use, and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank, Washington, DC, pp 13–38

    Google Scholar 

  • Khanna R, Kumar A, Vaghela J, Sreenivas V, Puliyel J (2003) Community based retrospective study of sex in infant mortality in India. BMJ Br Med J 327(7407):126

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kingdon GG (2005) Where has all the bias gone? Detecting gender bias in the intrahousehold allocation of educational expenditure. Econ Dev Cult Chang 53(2):409–451

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lancaster G, Maitra P, Ray R (2008) Household expenditure patterns and gender bias: evidence from selected Indian states. Oxf Dev Stud 36(2):133–157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson RW, Verma S (1999) How children and adolescents spend time across the world: work, play, and developmental opportunities. Psychol Bull 125(6):701–736

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li D, Tsang MC (2003) Household decisions and gender inequality in education in rural China. China Int J 1(02):224–248

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lundberg S (2005) Sons, daughters, and parental behaviour. Oxf Rev Econ Policy 21(3):340–356

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lundberg S, Rose E (2002) The effects of sons and daughters on men’s labor supply and wages. Rev Econ Stat 84(2):251–268

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lundberg S, Pabilonia SW, Ward-Batts J (2007) Time allocation of parents and investments in sons and daughters. Unpublished Paper

  • Mammen K (2011) Fathers’ time investments in children: do sons get more? J Popul Econ 24(3):839–871

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marcoux A (2002) Sex differentials in undernutrition: a look at survey evidence. Popul Dev Rev 28(2):275–284

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller BD (1985) Prenatal and postnatal sex-selection in India: the patriarchal context, ethical questions and public policy. Syracuse University Working Paper no. 107. Retrieved from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNAAX045.pdf

  • Miller BD (1987) Female infanticide and child neglect in rural north India. In: Scheper-Hughes N (ed) Child survival. Springer, Netherlands, pp 95–112

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Mishra V, Roy TK, Retherford RD (2004) Sex differentials in childhood feeding, health care, and nutritional status in India. Popul Dev Rev 30(2):269–295

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Motiram S, Osberg L (2010) Gender inequalities in tasks and instruction opportunities within Indian families. Fem Econ 16(3):141–167

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nankhuni F (2004) Environmental degradation, resource scarcity and children’s welfare in Malawi: school attendance, school progress, and children’s health. (Unpublished PhD dissertation). Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University

  • Nishikiori N, Abe T, Costa DG, Dharmaratne SD, Kunii O, Moji K (2006) Who died as a result of the tsunami? Risk factors of mortality among internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka: a retrospective cohort analysis. BMC Public Health 6(1):73

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oldenburg P (1992) Sex ratio, son preference and violence in India: a research note. Econ Polit Wkly 27(49/50):2657–2662

    Google Scholar 

  • Ota M, Moffatt PG (2007) The within-household schooling decision: a study of children in rural Andhra Pradesh. J Popul Econ 20(1):223–239

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pabilonia SW, Ward-Batts J (2007) The effect of child gender on parents’ labor supply: an examination of natives, immigrants, and their children. Am Econ Rev 97(2):402–406

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pande RP (2003) Selective gender differences in childhood nutrition and immunization in rural India: the role of siblings. Demography 40(3):395–418

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Price J (2008) Parent-child quality time does birth order matter? J Hum Resour 43(1):240–265

    Google Scholar 

  • Puri S, Adams V, Ivey S, Nachtigall RD (2011) “There is such a thing as too many daughters, but not too many sons”: a qualitative study of son preference and fetal sex selection among Indian immigrants in the United States. Soc Sci Med 72(7):1169–1176

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qian N (2008) Missing women and the price of tea in China: the effect of sex-specific earnings on sex imbalance. Q J Econ 123(3):1251–1285

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rahman L, Rao V (2004) The determinants of gender equity in India: examining Dyson and Moore’s thesis with new data. Popul Dev Rev 30(2):239–268

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ram R (1984) Market opportunities, intrafamily resource allocation, and sex-specific survival rates: an intercountry extension. Am Econ Rev 74(5):1080–1086

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenzweig MR, Schultz TP (1982) Market opportunities, genetic endowments, and intrafamily resource distribution: child survival in rural India. Am Econ Rev 72(4):803–815

    Google Scholar 

  • Sen A (1990) More than 100 million women are missing. The New York Review of Books, 37(20). Retrieved from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1990/12/20/more-than-100-million-women-aremissing/

  • UN (2011) Sex differentials in childhood mortality. UN, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2005) Children out of school: Measuring exclusion from primary education. Montreal, Quebec, UNESCO Institute for Statistics

    Google Scholar 

  • World Bank (2012) World development report 2012: Gender equality and development. Washington DC, World Bank

    Google Scholar 

  • Yamaguchi K (1989) A formal theory for male-preferring stopping rules of childbearing: sex differences in birth order and in the number of siblings. Demography 26(3):451–465

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yeung WJ, Sandberg JF, Davis-Kean PE, Hofferth SL (2001) Children’s time with fathers in intact families. J Marriage Fam 63(1):136–154

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank the editor, Junsen Zhang, the four anonymous referees, Lisa Bates, Lena Edlund, Irwin Garfinkel, Robert Kaestner, Julien Teitler, and conference participants at the Columbia Population Research Center and Population Association of America for their valuable comments.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Felix M. Muchomba.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang

Appendix

Appendix

Table 6 South and East Asian children by respondent’s (i.e., parent’s) country of origin
Table 7 Estimates of son preference in parental quality time (in minutes)
Table 8 Estimates of son preference in one-on-one quality time with children
Table 9 Estimates of the association between parental quality time with children aged 0–5 years and years in the USA, among East and South Asian first-generation immigrant families
Table 10 Test for son-biased fertility stopping using current population survey (CPS–annual social and economic supplement) data for 2003–2012

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kaushal, N., Muchomba, F.M. Missing time with parents: son preference among Asians in the USA. J Popul Econ 31, 397–427 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-017-0668-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-017-0668-6

Keywords

  • Son preference
  • Parental investments
  • Immigrants
  • Time use

JEL classification

  • J13
  • J15
  • J16