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.