Son Preference and Prenatal Sex Selection: The Impact of Fertility Decline on Gender Imbalance

Sylvie Dubuc, University of Oxford
Devinder Sivia, University of Oxford

Prenatal sex-selection against females (PNSSaF) has lead to more than 100 millions missing girls, mainly in Asia. When parents strongly desire at least one son, and the first child(ren) are daughters, they may choose to intervene using prenatal-sex-selection to ensure a son at higher parity. Consequently, sex-selection against females is most pronounced at higher birth orders. In the context of the fertility transition in many Asian counties, a desire for smaller families coupled with son preference may therefore result in an increase of sex selection against females. We have developed a probabilistic model to investigate the non-trivial relationship between the total fertility, parity progression and the proportion of couples intervening. One striking finding is that despite a potential diminishing proportion of couples reverting to sex selection against females –and decreasing son preference – the sex ratio imbalances may yet increase due to smaller family aspirations. We discuss policy implications of our findings.

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Presented in Session 87: Son Preference and Sex Selection