Boy Preference? Girl Preference? Neither? An update

A while back I wrote a post arguing that campaigns against sex-selective abortion were selective in their use of statistics - focusing specifically on girls as the victims of this and ignoring indicators that outside of a particular subset of immigrant communities the pattern was, if anything, the reverse. Time has worn on now and the trends seem to be becoming somewhat clearer.

Earlier this month the New York Times published Americans Might No Longer Prefer Sons Over Daughters which documents no so much the absence of a preference for a child of a particular sex but rather additional indications of a developing preference for daughters:

While having a daughter versus a son used to make American parents more likely to keep having children, theoretically to try for a son, now the opposite is true: Having a daughter makes it less likely that they keep having children. Some data from adoptions and fertility procedures that allow parents to choose the sex of their baby also shows a preference, to varying degrees, for girls.

The article is based on this study. And, as in my earlier post, the New York Times article observes that a preference for sons is still in place amongst immigrants:

First- and second-generation American immigrants, the new study found, continue to show a preference for sons. They are more likely to keep having babies after having a daughter — particularly if they are from countries with less gender equity and lower female labor force participation.

The article doesn't distinguish amongst the regions that the immigrants are coming from, but I doubt immigrants from Nordic countries exhibit the same preferences. This is what the situation is like in Sweden according a recent study:

previous studies have suggested that a stronger preference for having daughter exists in Scandinavian countries, which are frequently noted for being among the most gender equal societies in the world. Combining new register data on birth rates by sex of the previous children and recent survey data on couples’ stated preferences for the sex of children, we show that the preference for daughters has increased in Sweden over the last decade. In addition to the stronger preference for having daughters among two‐child mothers documented in previous research, our findings show that during the previous decade this preference was noticeable also among one‐child parents. Despite Swedish society being known for holding gender equal social norms, interviewed parents openly expressed some degree of preference for having daughters over sons.

If judging people by how they act rather than the beliefs they claim to uphold it doesn't strike me as particular unfair to claim that those speaking of "gender equality" often in practice seem to be implementing female preference which this study only provides confirmation of.

As far as other regions outside the US go, evidence of a boy preference in India continues, though seemingly primarily directed to first-born sons and primarily within the Hindu community. In China things seem to have shifted somewhat as the the country seems to have "found" many of its missing girls back - delaying registration suggesting a bias against girls though not to the extent of killing them before birth as had been earlier suggested. There's also some early indications that a preference for girls may be developing in some parts of the society.

So the short answer to whether or not a preferences among parents for a boy or a girl exists seems to be that the situation requires some nuisance and remains context-dependent. However, in the Western world at least, evidence of a preference for girls seems to be increasing.

Random links

China is Testing Out a 1,000 km/h 'Super Maglev' Train
Sounds a lot like the hyperloop. To think that I thought the Shanghai maglev test train at a mere 430 km/h was fast!
Costly culture: differences in nut-cracking efficiency between wild chimpanzee groups
"Persistent behavioural coherence within the respective groups implies that immigrants adjust their behaviour to local nut-cracking techniques, even when individual foraging success might be compromised. This suggests that the benefit of belonging to a social group might outweigh the benefits of maximizing individual foraging efficiency. "
Italy elects its first black senator: Toni Iwobi of the League
The guy apparently helped to write the party's anti-immigration platform. Consider this a reminder for politically controversial subjects that it's often worth checking the demographics in poll-respondents. I don't think that I'm too crazy to suspect that this guy probably is relatively unrepresentative of Nigerians immigrants to Italy.

On the thought of the poor

I just finished reading James C Scott's Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, a book looking at the reactions of Malaysian rice farmers in the 1970s to an agricultural revolution taking place there, looking at the the societal changes occurring there. Usually I like to weave quite a few books in parallel, allowing me to spend more time meditating over each. Annoyingly, though, I had to finish this one in a week due to it getting recalled by the library. The book gave lots of stuff to think about, but for now I wanted to excerpt a couple of brief portions.

Here's an excerpt highlighting how the poor may be may not be aware of certain academic terms (which - I'd say - themselves may vary a bit from discipline) yet they're understanding is often adequate:

If the poor dwell upon the local and personal causes of their distress, it is thus not because they are particularly "mystified" or ignorant of the larger context of agrarian capitalism in which they live. They do not, of course, use the abstract, desiccated terminology of social science -proletarianization, differentiation, accumulation, marginalization - to describe their situation. But their own folk descriptions of what is happening: being made into coolies, the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer, and being "pushed aside" -are adequate and, at the same time, far richer in emotive meaning than anything academic political-economy could possibly provide. (p. 182)

Then later in the book, looking at behind-the-scenes conversations, the poor might not come up with a lengthy treatise yet may still develop some notions that you might find in places like Marx's magnum opus:

Except for those rare instances when the curtain is momentarily parted, the relatively uncensored subculture of subordinate classes must be sought in those locales, behind the scenes, where it is created-in all those social situations outside the immediate surveillance of the dominant class. Given its shadowy but palpable existence in informal discourse, this subculture is unlikely to be a systematic refutation of the dominant ideology. One does not expect Das Kapital to come from working-class pubs, although one may get something quite close to the labor theory of value! Unless the curtains are parted by open revolt, political freedoms, or a revolution that allows the subculture to take on a public, institutionalized life, it will remain elusive and masked. What is certain, how ever, is that, while domination may be inevitable as a social fact, it is unlikely .. also to be hegemonic as an ideology within that small social sphere where the powerless may speak freely. (p. 329 / 330)

Will note that I don't think that the labour theory of value works in practice, yet I'm not surprised that such an idea would arise in the context of poor rice farmers. I'd see something like a minimum basis income as a better approach to addressing concerns there, but I think that it's important to note that such notions might make the poor there vulnerable to being drawn up into a larger revolution were one to appear on the horizon.

Random links

Canadian researchers who commit scientific fraud are protected by privacy laws
Seems a bit weird: "Seventy-eight Canadian scientists have fabricated data, plagiarized, misused grants, or engaged in dodgy scientific practices in projects backed by public funds, a Star analysis has found. But the publicly funded agency responsible for policing scientific fraud is keeping secret the details surrounding these researchers. The scientists’ names, where they worked and what they did wrong is not made public because that information is protected under federal privacy laws."
Over-friendly, or sexual harassment? It depends partly on whom you ask
"Opinions on acceptable male behaviour vary by age, sex and nationality" - figure illustrates the variety on views in different countries
"Nanodrops" That Repair Corneas May Ultimately Replace Glasses
Would be interesting if something like this is made to work in humans: "New eye drops developed by researchers from the Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University in Israel can improve both nearsightedness and farsightedness, the inventors claim. However, so far the “nanodrops” have only been successfully tested on pigs’ corneas."


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