Demographic Manifestations of Son-Preference in England and Wales

Sylvie Dubuc, University of Oxford

Male preference in many Asian cultures results in discriminatory practices against females, including sex-selective abortion (SSA), which results in increased sex ratios at birth (s.r.a.b), notably in China, India and South Korea. A significant increase in s.r.a.b. for children born to India-born mothers living in the UK (from 1990), especially at higher birth orders, provided the first indirect evidence for SSA in a Western country (Dubuc, Coleman, 2007), echoed by recent findings in the U.S. Analysis of the fertility rates in the UK shows a less pronounced decline for the Bangladesh- and Pakistan-born mothers compared to the India-born mothers. Parents’ family planning strategy to control for family size while ensuring son(s) may contribute to higher s.r.a.b., since a decrease in family size statistically increases the pressure on women from families with strong son preference to abort female foetuses. Underlying factors of son-preference are discussed, including patrilineal rules and women’s choice autonomy.

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Presented in Session 104: Gender, Power and Reproductive Behavior