NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Girls vs. Boys

March 16, 2004

While the preference for sons over daughters is much more overt in many developing countries, researchers have determined that in the United States there is also a similar preference for boys -- though it is displayed in more subtle forms.

In a recent report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found:

  • Parents with girls are significantly more likely to be divorced or separated compared to parents with boys; there is a one to seven percent higher divorce probability for parents with only daughters, depending on family size.
  • Divorced fathers are much more likely to obtain custody of sons compared to daughters; these fathers are 11 to 22 percent more likely to have custody of the children in all-boy versus all-girl families.
  • Women with only girls are substantially more likely to have never been married than women with only boys; the chance a woman will be married decreases by two to seven percent for an all-girl family relative to an all-boy family.
  • Among women who had an ultrasound test, mothers who have a girl are less likely to be married at delivery than mothers who have a boy; suggesting that fathers who find out their child will be a boy are more likely to marry their partner before delivery.

The researchers indicate that at least since 1941 and continuing to the present, more Americans have stated that they would prefer to have sons over daughters. While women have only a slight preference for daughters in the population, men say they would rather have a boy by more than a two to one margin.

Source: Gordan B. Dahl and Enrico Moretti, "The Demand For Sons: Evidence From Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage," January 2004, National Bureau of Economic Research.

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