Gendering the Family Composition: Sex Preferences for Children and Childbearing Behavior in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden

Karsten Hank, University of Mannheim
Andres Vikat, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

It has been argued that a society's 'gender system' influences parents' sex preferences for children. If this was true, one should expect to find no such preferences in countries with a high level of gender equality. We exploit population register data from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden to examine parental sex preferences during the last three to four decades. First, we cannot observe any effect of the sex of the first-born child on second birth risks. Secondly, we detect a distinct preference for one child of each sex among parents of two children. Next to this combination preference, our analysis reveals, thirdly, that Danish and Swedish parents developed a preference for having a daughter, while Finns exhibit a significant son preference. This shows that modernization and more equal opportunities for women and men do not necessarily lead to parental gender indifference, but that they might even result in 'new' sex preferences.

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Presented in Session 28: Gender Preferences for Children