Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 711–716 | Cite as

Son Preference of Immigrants to the United States: Data from U.S. Birth Certificates, 2004–2013

  • Embry M. Howell
  • Huanjun Zhang
  • Dudley L. Poston
Original Paper


Son preference has existed for centuries in many cultures and societies. In some Asian countries, including China and India, the sex ratio at birth (SRB, number of male infants divided by number of female infants times 100) is elevated above the worldwide biological norm of about 105. We investigate whether this ratio is elevated in the U.S. for immigrant women. We analyze U.S. birth certificates for 2004–2013 and categorize births by mother’s and father’s race/ethnicity; mother’s place of birth, and birth order of the child. The SRB is elevated for two groups of women: Chinese women born in China for children of birth order 2 and higher, and Indian women born in India for children of birth order 3 and higher. The SRB is not elevated for Chinese and Indian women born in the U.S., nor for Mexican women, Black women, nor White women, regardless of place of birth. The race/ethnicity of the child’s father does not appear to be a strong factor in the SRB. In the early twenty-first century the elevated SRB for Chinese and Indian women born in China and India respectively suggests sex selection for higher order births in the U.S.


Sex ratio at birth Chinese women Indian women Birth certificates 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Embry M. Howell, Huanjun Zhang and Dudley L. Poston declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Animal and Human Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Embry M. Howell
    • 1
  • Huanjun Zhang
    • 2
  • Dudley L. Poston
    • 2
  1. 1.The Urban InstituteWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Texas A and M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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