Gender preferences for children.

Arnold F
Calverton, Maryland, Macro International, Demographic and Health Surveys [DHS], 1997 Aug. viii, 56 p. (Demographic and Health Surveys Comparative Studies No. 23)

This study documents patterns of gender preference across countries and analyzes the determinants of gender preferences and the impact of gender preferences for child well-being. Data are obtained from 57 surveys conducted in 44 countries during 1986-95. All data came from nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys, with the exception of health surveys in India and Nepal. The study focuses on attitudes and their impact on demographic behavior, and differential treatment of daughters and sons. Gender preferences varied widely between countries. Son preference was the strongest in a band of countries stretching from North Africa, through the Near East, to South Asia, particularly India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Egypt. Other countries with a significant preference included Turkey, Tunisia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Jordan, and Morocco. Consistent gender preference was not evident in most of sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Kenya and the Cameroon had some son preference. Daughter preference was strong in the Dominican Republic and slight in Colombia. Son preference affects contraceptive use, method mix, and larger families. Son preference impacts on pregnancy rates, average number of siblings, sex distribution of children, birth intervals, and duration of postpartum abstinence. The absence of strong preferences in 7 strong preference countries would result in 3-25% more contraceptive use and 9-21% lower fertility. Boys tend to have greater school attendance, a higher likelihood of vaccination, and slightly longer breast feeding. In India daughters were discriminated against in treatment for common childhood illnesses. Boys in Bangladesh and India were more likely to receive oral rehydration. There were few sex differences in feeding practices. In most South Asian countries and Egypt, girls 1-4 years old had a higher mortality risk. In Pakistan the risk was particularly high.

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