Sex ratios at birth are above the biologically normal in a number of Asian countries. High dowry payments, poverty, and the one child policy are factors believed to have contributed to the son preference now on display. Absent these factors, would there be a preference for sons (and a willingness to select prenatally)? In this paper, we study Asian immigrants to Canada using the 2001 and 2006 censuses, 20% samples. We find sex ratios to be normal at first parity but then rising with parity if there were no previous son. Among Sikhs, a son was twice as likely as a daughter if the two older children were girls, suggesting a strong role for culturally determined preferences. Finally, we find that while immigrants who either self report their religion to be Christian or Muslim show evidence of son preference in heightened probability of continuing to a third child if the first two were girls, but no evidence of an effect on sex ratios, suggesting that the explicit bans on post-natal sex selection (infanticide) in these religions also protect the unborn girl against prenatal selection.
Son Preference and the Role of Culture: Evidence from Asian Immigrants to Canada
Douglas Almond,∗Lena Edlund†and Kevin Milligan‡
∗Dept. of Economics, Columbia University. E-mail: email@example.com. †Dept. of Economics, Columbia University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. ‡Dept. of Economics, University of British Columbia. E-mail: email@example.com.
The biologically normal sex ratio is about 105 boys per 100 girls at birth, and then steadily declines to achieve gender balance around age twenty. As is well known by now, the numbers have been substantially higher for a number of Asian countries – notably India and China [Miller, 1981, Das Gupta, 1987, Banister, 1987, Zeng et al., 1993, Tuljapurkar et al., 1995, Scharping, 2003, Ebenstein, 2007]. In China, more than 120 boys were born per 100 girls in 2005 [Li, 2007], a sex ratio which implies a surplus of almost one million males in that single year cohort alone. Sex ratios at birth have risen steadily since the early 1980s, resulting in an estimated 32 million more males than females under age 20 in 2005 [Zhu et al., 2009]. Initially, Chinese officials claimed unknown racial specificity of the Chinese people as the reason, a position that has since given way to recognition of son biased preferences and practises [Scharping, 2003, p.288]. For India, the 2001 census showed 108 boys per girls in the 0-6 age group, up from 105.8 in the 1991 census. While all Indian states showed more boys than girls in this age group (which is indeed normal), Punjab topped the chart with a sex ratio of 125 boys per girls, up from 114 in 1991. 80 percent of districts recorded a rise in child sex ratios between 1991 and 2001 [UNICEF].
These developments have prompted investigation into the underlying causes. Most of the focus has been on why parents would want sons rather than daughters. One strand of explanations emphasizes socio-economic factors. Absent ability to save or national pensions, the poor rely heavily on chil- dren for old age support, and patriarchal norms have dictated this to mean not just children, but sons, e.g., Chung and Das Gupta . In addition,
in India, high and rising dowry payments are argued to place families with daughters at a disadvantage (although dowry is arguably endogenous Ed- lund , and it is the rich rather than the poor states that discriminate the most against girls, Punjab being a case in point). Moreover, agriculture and manual labor puts a premium of physical strength and it has even been argued that families depend on males for physical protection [Oldenburg, 1992].Another explanation stresses the cultural value attached to a male off- spring. According to Hindi tradition, only a son can light a man’s funeral pyre. Similar beliefs characterize Chinese traditions, where lineage is traced solely through the male, and failure to produce as son is considered tanta- mount to “extinction” of the family line and an affront to core Confucian values. Traditional sayings such as “Raising a daughter is like watering a plant in another mans garden” or “A daughter is a thief” illustrate this sen- timent. The current Chinese Law on Population and Birth PRC [2002, Ar- ticle 22] states: “[It is] forbidden to discriminate against or mistreat women who give birth to female infants and women who do not give birth [i.e., are infertile]. It is forbidden to discriminate against, mistreat, or abandon fe- male infants,” suggesting that traditionally held beliefs find their expression in current behavior.4However, high sex ratios are not only the result of a desire for sons. To cultural differences in valuation of sons (over daughters) can be added the possibility of cultural differences in the cost of sex selection. In particular, since the most prevalent sex selection techniques involve mortality manipu- lation post conception, cultural attitudes towards infanticide and abortion
based on sex may influence the observed sex ratio. While no main religion has advocated infanticide, Christianity and Islam stand out by equating infanti- cide with manslaughter. Is it possible that traditional proscription against post-natal sex selection may have translated into protection of the unborn girl?In this paper we study sex ratios among Asian immigrants to Canada using the 2001 and 2006 censuses. Asian immigrants to Canada offer an interesting case for several reasons. Many of the factors advanced to explain high sex ratios in India and China are not present in Canada. Since Canada is a rich OECD country with extensive welfare provisions, and immigrants are admitted based on a point system ensuring that immigrants are positively selected, immigrants to Canada do not rely on sons for old age support (any more than non-immigrants do). Given the large income differences between Canada and India, a daughter’s dowry would not be onerous (should it be required). Moreover, the role of land, to pass on or to farm, is likely to be limited since recent immigrants have been decidedly urban, vocationally and locationally. International comparisons of crime rates are difficult due to variation in definitions, but homicide rates are lower than in the US and the need for physical protection from sons is likely minimal. And, obviously, there is no one-child policy to heed.5What Canada does share with India and China is access to technology for prenatal sex selection and a liberal abortion policy. In fact, Canadian abortion law is among the most permissive in the West. Moreover, abor- tion procedures are covered by the national health insurance, rendering the monetary cost of an abortion negligible.
We find sex ratios to be be abnormally high at higher parities if previ- ous children have been all girls, confirming patterns recently documented for Asian immigrants to the US and the UK [Dubuc and Coleman, 2007, Almond and Edlund, 2008, Abrevaya, forthcoming]. Turning to the question of as- similation, and focussing on sex ratios at second and third parity, among first generation immigrants, we find higher sex ratios among those who arrived in adulthood. Moreover, while first generation immigrants exhibited higher sex ratios at third parity, they also seemed more willing to continue to a third birth than second generation immigrants. Second generation immigrants opt for smaller family size, suggesting a measure of assimilation, but not neces- sarily with respect to their preference for sons. In fact, second generation immigrants appear more likely to sex select at second parity than their first generation counterparts.6Perhaps our most striking finding concerns (self-declared) religion – not recorded in US Census or natality data. High sex ratios are entirely driven by immigrants who are neither Christian nor Muslim, the highest sex ratio being found for Sikhs. For this group, there are more than 2 boys per girl for the third child if the two elder children were girls, that is a sex ratio that is 100% above the normal above for this group. By contrast, Asian immigrants who are Christian or Muslim (mainly from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and South Korea) exhibit normal sex ratios, irrespective of parity and sex mix of previous children. Of course, the absence of skewed sex ratios could mirror an absence of sex preference, but that does not appear to be the case. Christian or Muslim parents were about 5 percentage points more likely to continue to a third child if the first two were girls, suggesting that the explicit
bans on post-natal sex selection (infanticide) in these religions also protect the unborn girl against prenatal sex selection.
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The next section provides some institutional background on immigration to Canada, prenatal sex choice options, abortion access in Canada, and religious prohibitions against sex choice. Section 3 describes the Canadian census microdata and our analysis sample, Section 4 our results, and Section 5 concludes with a brief discussion.2 Institutions7Several features of the environment for Asian immigrants in Canada combine to make their study uniquely informative. The levels of immigration are high, sex determination technology is readily available, and abortions are publicly funded without legal impediment. This generates an environment with a sizeable proportion of the population having cultural attachment to countries known to feature son preference and with relatively easy access to means to act on that preference. Below we provide a brief background of Asian immigration to Canada, prenatal sex determination, and religious and cultural attitudes towards sex selection.
2.1 Asian immigration in CanadaCanada’s population is one of the most immigrant-intensive in the industri- alizedworld.1 ThestockofforeignborninCanadain2006was19.8percent, about 50 percent higher than the 12.5 percent level in the United States, the “nation of immigrants”. The top-two destination cities, Toronto and Vancouver, have foreign-born shares of 45.7 percent and 39.6 percent, which exceed levels seen in the top US immigration destinations of Miami (36.5), Los Angeles (34.7), and New York (27.9).Annual immigration to Canada is around 0.7 percent of population; about doubletheprevailingrateintheUnitedStates.2 Thetop-fivesourcecountries in 2007 were the People’s Republic of China, India, the Philippines, the United States, and Pakistan. Asia and the Pacific region have accounted for around 50 percent of immigrants since the 1980s – a trend that started after reforms to immigration in the 1960s. A point system governs the entrance of skilled workers, and 20 to 25 percent of immigrants over the past decade have entered under this system. The balance enter through other channels as family class, spouses and dependants of skilled workers, entrepreneurs,81 The statistics in this paragraph come from “Immigration in Canada: A Por-
trait of the Foreign-born Population, 2006 Census” Statistics Canada, 2007. Catalogue 97-557-XIE http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/english/census06/analysis/immcit/pdf/97-
557-XIE2006001.pdf The data on the United States come from this Statistics Canada
publication, but are derived from the 2006 American Community Survey. See Green and Green (1995) for details on the evolution of Canada’s immigration system and an analysis of the point system. 2The statistics in this paragraph are from “Facts and Figures: Immigration Overview
Temporary and Permanent Residents 2007” Citizenship and Immigration Canada. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/pdf/pub/facts2007.pdf.
investors, or refugees. Quebec maintains a separate immigrant policy, with the result that a much lower proportion of Asian immigrants arrive in Quebec than other provinces.2.2 Prenatal Sex DeterminationPrenatal sex determination is controversial, but available in Canada. In British Columbia, the [College of Physicians and Surgeons] have endorsed a policy that categorizes fetal gender determination for non-medical purposes as ‘unethical.’ Sex determination is actively discouraged in the medical com- munity. However, in practice, there are ways around this. First, one could find a health care provider willing to overlook the policy. Second, sex deter- mination clinics across the nearby border in the U.S. (Washington state) are available and advertised in immigrant communities. [cite CBC Vancouver story from 2004 about outrage in Indian community.] In Ontario, there is no such policy.Sex determination using ultrasound visualization is the dominant form worldwide. In Canada, ultrasound examinations are part of routine prenatal care and is available free of charge to the patient. Fetuses can be sexed towards the end of the first trimester when differentiation of the external sex organs occurs (between weeks 10 and 12).Since 2005, a blood test claiming to detect the sex of the embryo/fetus as early as week 5 has been marketed directly to prospective customers in the US, but the accuracy of the test has been questioned.3 Several companies93 In 2009, the test kit cost USD 25 and the lab fee USD 250. Expedited shipping brought the cost to USD 375. http://babygendermentor.com/information.php?information_
offer a similar test starting week 10.4 Methods not involving post-conception mortality exist but are either sorecent or expensive so as not have impacted sex ratios seen in the 2001 census (and the 2006 census results are very similar, suggesting that these methods have yet not had a significant impact). In cases of assisted reproduction, sex selection may be done pre-implantation. Sperm sorting, whereby only x- or y-chromosome carrying sperm are selected, was originally developed for livestock breeding purposes and has been marketed to prospective parents since 2002 by Genetics and IVF Institute in Virginia. This technology does not require fertilization to be in-vitro and can thus be less expensive.(5)When fertilization is in-vitro, the developing embryo may be sexed pre- implantation by the removal of a cell and subsequent testing. The technique was originally developed to test for genetic disease, but the sex is readily revealed in the process. Such pre-implantation genetic diagnosis was first reported in 1990 and is now widely performed by fertility clinics [Baruch et al., 2006]. However, it remains costly, each cycle (attempt) may cost around USD 18,000,6 and more than 50 percent percent fail, implying anid=6
5 In 2003, the cost was as USD 2,500 per try. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/
106 “Asian immigrants use medical technology to satisfy age-old desire: A son” By Mike Swift, Mercury News, http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ ci_11390702?
expected total cost in the neighborhood of USD 40,000.(7)
2.3 Abortion in CanadaAbortion law in Canada is among the least restrictive in the world. Prior to 1988, abortions were governed by Section 251 of the Criminal Code, which required case-by-case certification by a hospital’s Therapeutic Abortion Com- mittee. In 1988, the 5-2 R. v. Morgentaler decision of the Supreme Court of Canada determined that Section 251 violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A legislative attempt to replace the abortion law failed in 1989, and no subsequent legislation has been introduced. The result is an environment with no legal barrier to abortion, no matter the gestational age of the fetus.Beyond legal barriers, other factors can also potentially limit abortions. First, doctors might not be available to perform the abortion. This can arise for women in more rural parts of the country and in some provinces and territories. For example, for many years there have been no abortions performed in Prince Edward Island for want of facilities. However, because a large majority of Asian immigrants lives in large cities, physical access is less of an issue for the Asian population.Second, cost can be prohibitive. In Canada, however, abortions in hos- pitals are covered by the universal public health plan in every province and territory, and private clinic abortions almost everywhere as well. The indirect7 “The 138,198 ART [assisted reproduction technology] cycles performed at these re- porting clinics in 2006 resulted in 41,343 live births (deliveries of one or more living infants) and 54,656 infants.” http://www.cdc.gov/art/
costs of travel and time are not covered, but for the mostly urban immigrant population these costs are less important.
2.4 Cultural Prohibitions Against Sex Selection
At the time of the early Church and the Quran, infanticide was the main form of sex selection, and both Christianity and Islam took strong positions against it. For obvious reasons, neither religion pondered the question of sex selective abortion, but it is possible that the proscription against post-natal sex selection has rendered sex selection taboo, thus protecting the unborn girl. To the best of our knowledge, there is no equivalent proscriptions in the other main religions (including Confucianism). While no religion advocates infanticide, Christianity and Islam stand out by equating infanticide with manslaughter. Below follows a very brief account.
Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were permitted under Ro- man law at the time of Jesus. At the time, only infanticide could be done according to sex, and but it was widely used to that end, as this well known excerpt from a letter dated around 1B.C. illustrates (quoted in Stark ).“Know that I am still in Alexandria.... I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.”The early church banned both abortion and infanticide [Stark, 1997]. The Quran does not explicitly ban abortion (nor does the Bible), but on the other hand, takes a strong position against female infanticide, widely
practised in pre-Islamic Arabia. On the day of reckoning, the Quran (At- Takwir: 8-15) reads:
“When the female infant, buried alive, is questioned - for what crime was she killed; when the scrolls are laid open; when the World on High is unveiled; when the Blazing Fire is kindled to fierce heat; and when the Garden is brought near - Then shall each soul know what it has put forward. So verily I call.”Judaism also condemns infanticide, but this religion has very few followers in South, South-East and East Asia.3 DataThe Canadian Census is conducted every five years, with slightly more de- tailed questions asked in years ending with a ‘1’. The coverage is universal and mandatory, with 20 percent of private occupied households selected for the detailed ‘long form’ and 80 percent for the more cursory ‘short form’. All respondents to the long form are used for the master file, which is available for some Census years through special arrangement at Research Data Centres. The data include information on the location, income, education, immigra- tion history, dwelling, and family structure for each individual. The data are available at the individual level, with hierarchical identifiers permitting the recreation of families and households.13We focus on the 2001 and 2006 Census years. The primary difference between these two surveys for our purposes is the availability of religion in
2001. Our results in the 2001 and 2006 samples typically look very similar, the main benefit of pooling these two years is sample size.We draw a sample of two-parent families with children subject to three selection criteria. First, we require the youngest three children to be born in Canada. This assures that the children in the sample were all born in the same institutional environment – and not subject to family size restriction as in, for example, China. Second, we restrict our focus to families where the oldest child is age 12 or younger. We need to reconstruct the family structure extant at the birth of each child. When a family has older children, the possibility of a child having left the home increases. This motivates our focus on families with younger children. Third, we exclude families with multiple births because we are interested in the sequential decision by parity, and multiple births introduce a more complex parity structure. Compared to the US Census, the resulting sample sizes for each Census year are much larger because of the larger share of foreign-born in Canada, a higher fraction of Asians among immigrants to Canada, and the larger 20 percent sample.(8)Our goal is to reconstruct the sex structure of the existing children when the family is facing the birth of another child. For each person in the family, we know the exact date of birth. Using this information, we code variables for whether a child of each parity was born, and if so, the sex of a child. These form the dependent variables for the analysis. We also code variables for the sex mix of existing children at each parity. These variables are used148 For instance, the 20 percent sample of the 2001 Canadian census yields almost three times as many families of the type Almond and Edlund  focussed on (of Chinese, Korean or Indian origin who having a third child conditional on the first two being girls), or 910 v. 324.
both to define our samples and as explanatory variables.(9) The Canadian Census contains information on each individual’s ethnicityand country of birth.(10) We also observe each person’s parents’ country of birth. Children in the sample can be linked to their parents, for whom we know the parents’ places of birth. Consequently, for each child we can observe both the parents’ and the grandparents’ country of birth, meaning we can distinguish between first and second generation immigrant families.We create a sample of first and second generation immigrant families from South, South East and East Asia. We do so by selecting all families for which at least one of the grandparents was born in South or East Asia. Since most Asian immigrants arrived after the 1960s, this allows us to capture a large percentage of the Asian-Canadian population. An alternative is to use self-reported ethnicity. However, those who are more assimilated may be more likely to identify as ‘Canadian’ ethnicity, making it more difficult to use ethnicity to study assimilation. Results using ethnicity to classify families show similar patterns and magnitudes to those we report here.9 Divorces, remarriages, deaths, and adoptions could imperil our family reconstruction. We can create an indicator of success for family reconstruction using the public-use 1991 Census, which records the number of children ever born. We select families with mother or father born in Asia and compare the number of children ever born to the number currently living at home. For children age 0-5, 94.7 percent of families have the same number ever
born and still at home. For children age 6 to 14, 90.9 percent are the same.
1510 There is no ‘race’ categorization.
4 Son preference among Asian immigrantsOur empirical analysis begins with graphs of sex ratios by sex mix and parity of birth. These graphs establish our basic results. Then, in regressions, we formalize the inferences found in the graphs and explore the results more in depth.4.1 Basic graphsFigure 1 displays sex ratios (males to females) for different family and char- acteristic groups, arranged in four panels. Each set of three bars shows the sex ratio for first children, second children when the first was a girl, and third children when the first two were girls. Each sex ratio has the mean reported above the bar, and a 95 percent confidence interval marked. The underlying population size is noted at the bottom of each bar.(11) A line is drawn at the approximate biological norm of 1.05 for comparison.Panel A of Figure 1 considers country of origin. Most of the existing literature studies one country at a time or country of origin for immigrants, so the breakdowns in Panel A allow comparison of our results to the existing literature. Each country sample is chosen by keeping all families with at least onegrandparentborninthatcountry.(12) WeshowtheresultsforIndia,‘China11 Statistics Canada disclosure guidelines require sample sizes using Census data to be rounded to a 5 or a 0.1612 This introduces some problems, since the geography of Asia has not been stable, with the partition of India and the impact of the Chinese revolution being pertinent to our case. For India, about five percent of observations with the grandparents being reported born in India have the parents born in Pakistan. For China, we group together the People’s
plus’ together with Korea and Vietnam, and the Philippines. Sex ratios for first births are only slightly higher than biological norms, coming in between 1.08 and 1.09 for all three of our country groups. The 95 percent confidence interval includes 1.05. The sex ratio for second children when the first is a girl is elevated in India at 1.19, which is statistically significantly different than 1.05. A much sharper contrast is evident for third children with two girls first. In India, the sex ratio is 1.90, with a 95 percent confidence interval reaching down to 1.67. For China plus, Korea, and Vietnam, the sex ratio is 1.39, which is statistically significantly different than 1.05.(13)The Philippines provides a stark counter-example, with sex ratios within the biological norm for all parities – including third children preceded by two girls. This provides a strong indication that broadly Asian genetic or cultural factors cannot explain elevated sex ratios. The Philippines does have several unique cultural features – such as non-patrilinearity and Catholicism – but this serves to suggests that local and potentially malleable cultural factors determine attitudes toward sex and abortion. We therefore consider whether within immigrant groups with high sex ratios, there are dimensions along which we observe assimilation toward more balanced sex ratios.Panel B of Figure 1 shows sex ratios for families classified by the origins of the grandparents. The first set of bars indicates the sex ratios of families in which all four grandparents are Canadian-born – these families have parents that are at least third generation Canadian, the vast majority of which are Republic, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, and Singapore into an aggregation we call ‘China plus.’1713 In the three countries making up this grouping, the results for the third parity are 1.382 for China plus, 1.623 for Korea, and 1.418 for Vietnam.
of European ethnicity. Given our interest in assimilation, this set of bars provides the ultimate “native” comparison group. Sex ratios for these families are 1.05 for first births, 1.08 for second births (with girl first), and 1.06 for third births (with two girls first). The large sample size leads to very small confidence intervals. These sex ratios are within biological norms.The second and third set of bars in Panel B show the sex ratios for families with South or East Asian-born grandparents. In the middle are families with either one or two South or East Asian-born grandparents and on the right are those with three or four South or East Asian-born grandparents. Sex ratios for first births are slightly higher than 1.05, but only marginally. For second births, the sex ratios are slightly elevated, to 1.13 for those with 1 or 2 South or East Asian-born grandparents and 1.11 for those with 3 or 4. The largest sex ratios are for third births with the first two children being girls. Those families with 3 or 4 South or East Asian-born grandparents have 1.45 boys for every girl, and those with 1 or 2 South or East Asian-born grandparents have 1.21 boys for every girl. This suggests that less assimilated families (more Asian-born grandparents) have larger sex ratios – a point we develop in the regression analysis below.18We next examine the sex ratios of Asian immigrants by generation. Sec- ond generation immigrants not only may be more culturally assimilated, but also have much better labor market prospects [Kevin find cite – maybe Phil Oreo’s new paper.] Both of these factors may induce a decrease in desired family size, which may alter the way families with a son preference achieve their goal – through having more children or aborting female fetuses. The first set of bars in Panel C of Figure 1 shows the sex ratios for families in
which at least one parent is Canadian-born. The sex ratio for third births after two girls is 1.32. The middle and right-hand set of bars focus on fam- ilies with both parents foreign born (1st generation immigrants), but split the sample into those in which the parents arrived after turning age 18, and those who arrived at younger ages.(14) Immigrants who arrive during child- hood have a sex ratio of 1.23 for third children when the first two are girls, which actually falls below that of second generation immigrants, which does not indicate assimilation effects – although the difference is not statistically significant. The sex ratio for families with both parents arriving after age 18 is 1.50 for third children with two girls first. The size of this sample makes for a smaller 95 percent confidence interval, reaching down only to 1.34. This provides some indication that immigrants arriving later in life maintain a stronger son preference than those who arrive earlier. [Kevin: cite evidence on age of arrival on labour markets. e.g. Arthur Sweetman’s CJE paper.]Finally, we turn in Panel D of Table 1 to religion, where the sample includes families with at least one South or East Asian-born grandparent. Religion is only available in 2001, so sample sizes are smaller than the first two panels which included data from both 2001 and 2006. Strikingly, the sex ratios for families with Christian or Muslim parents show little indication of heightened sex ratios, with a ratio of 1.01 for third births after two girls. Approximately [half: kevin check this] of this sample originates from the Philippines, which features a non-patrilineal culture. However, the same pattern occurs for Asian Christians who are not Filipino. The middle set1914 Those with one parent arriving before and one after age 18 are grouped with those having both parents arriving before age 18.
of bars displays results for all non-Christian and non-Muslims. This set of families displays a blistering 1.98 sex ratio for third births with two girls first.(15) The right-hand set of bars pulls out Sikh families who have the highest sex ratio we observe among the religious groups, at 2.07.4.2 Basic regressionsWe proceed with the analysis by running regressions of the form:
Yi = β0 + Xiβ1 + AllGirlsiβ2 + Mixiβ3 + ui. (1)
We consider two dependent variables. The first is an indicator that the family had another child. If we include all families with one child facing the birth of a second, some of these families may have another child in the future but haven’t yet. To account for this possibility, we restrict the sample to families where the previous child was age six or older. For the ‘second child’ sample, we include all families with a first child age six or higher and form the dependent variable as taking the value one when a second child is present. For the ‘third child’ sample, we include all families with at least two children and in which the second child is at least 6 years old. The dependent variable in this case takes the value one when a third child is present. The other dependent variable is an indicator that the child of the indicated parity is a boy. We impose no age restriction on these regressions.The key independent variables of interest are AllGirlsi and Mixi. AllGirlsi takes the value 1 when all the previous children are girls. Mixi takes the value 1 when the previous children are a mix of boys and girls. The excluded15[Kevin fill in details about the religion composition of the sample.]
category is indicator for both children being boys. In the second child sam- ple, there is only one previous child so AllGirlsi = 1 indicates the first child was a girl, and Mixi is omitted. In the third child sample, both variables are included.The Xi vector contains a set of demographic covariates for the household. We include dummies for father and mother age group, father and mother education, city of residence, and a dummy for observations from the 2006 census.(16)The equations are estimated using a linear probability model with robust standard errors. Table 1 presents the results for four different samples. Re- sults under Had are for the dependent variable indicating the family had the indicated parity child, while those under boy are for the dependent variable for the family having a boy of the indicated parity. We show results for second and third parities.The first panel of Table 1 contains the results for the sample of fami- lies having both parents born in South or East Asia, making these families first generation immigrants. After the birth of a girl, these families are 2.2 percentage points more likely to have a second child over the next six years than those who had a boy. This indicates a slight preference for boys, but while statistically significant, it is not large compared to the mean of 0.562116 The age groups we use are 24 and under, 25 to 29, and 30 and above. We use the age at the birth of the first child, since age at the birth of the current child is endogenous. For ed- ucation, we code three dummies: high school or less, some post-high school education, and university degree. For city of residence, we include dummies for Vancouver-Abbottsford and for Toronto, leaving all other cities and rural areas as the left-out category. The results are very similar in specifications that omit the entire Xi vector.
for those with a boy first. Among those having a second child, those with a girl first were 2.1 percentage points more likely to have a boy. Again, while statistically significant, this effect is not large. The next two columns show what happens for third births. Here, we see a large 19.3 percentage point difference in having a third child if the first two were girls, relative to the 18.5 percent mean when the first two were boys, i.e. a doubling of the continua- tion rate. There is also a relatively small but still significant 4.0 percentage point lower probability of having a third child if the first two were of mixed sex, indicating a slight preference for a sex mix. The point estimate for hav- ing a boy when the first two are girls is 8.4 percent among first generation immigrants, which is nearly identical to the unadjusted estimates.(17)The second panel of Table 1 has the same set of results for second gener- ation immigrants. This sample of families has at least one grandparent born in South or East Asia, but has at least one parent born in Canada. Because so much Asian immigration has taken place over the last 30 years, the sam- ple sizes for the second generation are about a quarter of those for the first generation sample. For second births, the effects are small and comparable to the first generation estimates. In contrast, the third birth results show strong differences. Families having two girls first are somewhat less likely to have a third child within six years than families with two boys first, with an estimated coefficient of -0.053, significant at the 10 percent level. There is2217 To express this parameter in in terms of sex ratios, the probability of having a boy if the first two children are boys in our sample is exactly 0.500. A 8.4 percentage point increase in this probability increases it to 0.584, which produces a sex ratio adjusted for covariates of 1.404. This is very close to the unadjusted sex ratio of 1.415 for this same sample, indicating that controlling for covariates is playing little role in our estimates.
also a much stronger preference for mixed sex families evident, with a 12.2 percent increase in the probability of stopping after two children when the first two are mixed compared to the first two being boys. Finally, the prob- ability of having a boy third is 4.6 points higher when the first two kids are girls compared to the first two being boys. This coefficient is about half the size of the coefficient in the first generation sample, but the standard error is larger in this smaller sample.The bottom two panels of Table 1 disaggregate the sample of families having South and East Asian-born grandparents into Christian/Muslim and other religions samples. The effects in both of these samples for second births are small. However, both religious subsamples display a significant preference for having a third child when the first two are girls. However, the magnitude of the coefficient for non-Christian or non-Muslims is five times (0.247 compared to 0.050) the coefficient for Christians and Muslims. Notably, while Christians and Muslims’ decisions to have a third child show a preferences for achieving a sex mix, other religious groups do not (-.062 versus -.016).The difference between the religion subsamples is larger still where the sex of the third child is concerned. While essentially unaffected for Christians and Muslims, among other religious groups the probability of having a boy third increases by 12.3 percentage points when the first two children are girls relative to boys. This regression coefficient delivers an adjusted sex ratio of 1.976, very close to the 1.982 visible in Panel C of Figure 1.23These first regressions bring forward the following three important find- ings. First, for third children in particular, both sex ratios and the probability
of having the child depend strongly on the sex mix of previous two children. Second, second generation immigrants showing much less propensity to keep having children when the first two are girls than do first generation Asian immigrants, consistent with an assimilation effect. Finally, Christians and Muslims show a sex preference through stopping behaviors alone, while both sex ratios and stopping behaviors are affected for other religions.4.3 Immigrant AssimilationDoes the duration of time spent in Canada have an independent effect on immigrant son preference, or is it subsumed by other factors? We estimate multivariate regressions for all families with at least one grandparent born in South or East Asia, effectively pooling together first and second generation immigrants. Here, we include three region of origin dummies to control for differences across source countries. We also include three immigrant cohort dummies for each of the mother and father to control for differences across immigrant cohorts, which will make help distinguish between age of arrival versus cohort effects.18 The other variables are defined as in Section 4.2 above.The key right-hand side variables of interest are indicators of the sex mix of previous children and their interaction with measures of “Canada exposure”. For immigrant generation, we code a variable indicating that both parents are foreign-born, i.e. first-generation immigrants.(19) We also2418 For the mother and the father, we form variables identifying immigrants arriving before 1980, 1980-1989, 1990-94, and 1995 and later.
19 In our sample, about 77 percent of observations have both parents as first generation immigrants, 8 percent as second generation, and 15 percent as one first and one second.
code a variable indicating that both parents are first generation immigrants arriving after age 18.In the Table 2 results, we see that families with two girls first are 14.6 percentage points more likely to have a third child than when the first two children were boys (column 1). The decision to continue childbearing also reveals a preference for sex mix. First generation parents are 3.2 percentage points less likely to have a third child (irrespective of sex composition). In the right-hand panel, the results for having a boy third are quite different. Here, the only significant gender impact follows two girls, with a 7.2 percentage point increase in the probability of having a boy.25The middle columns of the table interact the family structure variables with the immigrant indicator, allowing first generation immigrants to react differently to gender than second generation immigrants. For having a third child, first generation immigrant families are 24.9 percentage points more likely than second generation families to have a third child if the first two are girls. The first generation families are also more likely to continue to a third child if the first two are mixed rather than boys. The -0.132 coefficient on the first generation variable indicates that first generation families with two boys first are 13.2 percentage points less likely than second generation immigrants to have a third child if the first two are boys. Putting these together, this evidence indicates a much stronger preference for boys among first generation immigrant families. This may result from a higher proclivity of newer immigrants to have larger families, as more established immigrants have assimilated either culturally or through the labor force into Canadian family size norms.
It is possible that there is a tradeoff between larger families and selective abortion as a path to having more sons. If so, a higher proclivity for using the family size channel might lead to lower use of the abortion channel and vice versa. Son preference may be similar but asymmetry along other dimensions (which may respond to assimilation) may change the means by which it is expressed. In contrast, if assimilation affects the taste for sons, then we should see assimilation effects on the abortion channel and the family size channel that go in the same direction.For child sex, the effect of having previous girls is now split between an effect for second generation and first generation immigrants. What was a large and significant 7.2 percentage point impact on having a boy (column 4) is decomposed into a 4.3 percentage point effect for second generation immigrants and an additional 3.7 percentage point effect for first generation immigrants (column 5). However, neither of these effects is in itself statisti- cally significant. As we do not replicate the generational contrast of column 2, substitution through abortion is not apparent. Instead, it may indicate that second generation immigrants have a lower son preference that operates through both channels.26Columns 3 and 6 of Table 2 further break down the first generation effect into one for those arriving before and after age 18. For having another child, the coefficients are largely unchanged for those arriving after age 18, meaning that there is no distinction between the behavior of early and late arriving first generation immigrants – although the strong distinction be- tween first and second generation immigrants remains. In contrast, the co- efficient of the interaction of being first generation and having two girls first
now goes close to zero, with the age 18 interaction term taking the value 0.044. Although statistically insignificant, the confidence interval includes a substantially higher degree of sex selection for adult immigrants.Our findings on assimilation indicate that first generation immigrant fam- ilies from South and East Asia are much more likely to exhibit son preference in their family size choices than are second generation families. The similar- ity in the sex results by generation suggests that on net, son preference in the second generation may be less pronounced.4.4 ReligionThe 2001 Census allows us to examine the relationship between religion and son preference, as reflected by fertility decisions.(20) The independent variable of interest is formed as a binary indicator for the family having both parents reporting Muslim or Christian religion, along with its interaction with family structure.(21)The first column of Table 3 introduces the Christian/Muslim dummy into our standard specification. As seen before, there is a strong preference for20 The results in Table 3 use only the 2001 Census. In comparable regressions, however,the results in the two years are extremely similar. Using the same specification as Table 1for having a boy for a third child, the coefficient (standard error) on having two girls firstis 0.076 (0.017) in the pooled dataset, and 0.072 (0.025) in the 2001 dataset. For havinganother child, the coefficient in the pooled dataset is 0.144 (0.013) and 0.154 (0.020) inthe 2001 dataset.
2721 We have checked the results in a specification that allows for six different religious groups, but found that the results led naturally to the Muslim/Christian vs. other groupings.
having another child if the first two are girls, and a slight preference to stop if the first two children are of mixed sex. Christian and Muslim parents are 8.6 percentage points more likely to have a third child, on average across all family types. In the second column, we allow the effect of having different family structures to be different for Christian and Muslim families. Here, the effect for non-Christians and Muslims of having two girls first is a very large 22.3 percentage points. However, Christians and Muslims give back three quarters of this effect – i.e. all but 5.5 percentage points. This suggests that the desire to have more children after two girls is driven largely by the non-Christians and Muslims in the sample. Moreover, the 0.143 coefficient for having both parents Christian or Muslim indicates a 14.3 percentage point increase in the probability of having a third child if the first two were boys, relative to non-Christians and Muslims. This suggests a much stronger valuation of having a girl in the family among Christians and Muslims. The third column includes a dummy for being a first generation immigrant family, along with its interaction with the family structure variables. The coefficients on the immigration variables are very similar to those described in Table 2, and the coefficients on the religion variables are little changed. This suggests that both religion and immigrant vintage are strong and independent drivers of son preference.28The right-hand side of Table 3 considers the dependent variable having a boy among all third births. There is a 6.6 percentage point increase in the probability of having a boy if the first two children were girls. Christians and Muslims, however, show a 5.6 percentage point decrease in the probabil- ity of having a boy relative to other South and East Asian immigrants. As
before, we break down the all girls result into a common effect and a Chris- tian/Muslim effect. The results mirror those in Figure 1 Panel D: the sex selection effect for third births is driven almost entirely by non-Christians and Muslims. The common effect for all families with two girls first is 0.113, but for Christians and Muslims the estimated coefficient indicates a 12.4 percent- age point lower impact. When combined with the common effect, the impact is effectively zero. The third column introduces the set of three immigration variables. Again, the immigration variables show little difference from Table 2, with a large (although insignificant) 0.057 effect for first generation im- migrants relative to second generation immigrants. The religion coefficient changes little, still indicating a very large 11.6 percentage point difference between Christians and Muslims and other families in their probability of having a boy after two girls.5 Discussion29We have documented a clear tendency to select sons, almost certainly through sex selective abortion, among Asian immigrants to Canada, with an impor- tant exception. Sex ratios at all parities and irrespective of sex mix of pre- vious children as normal among immigrants professing to be Christian or Muslim (mainly from the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Ko- rea). The absence of sex preference among Christians and Muslims could be the reason, but that does not appear to be the case. Following two girls, Christian and Muslim families were five percentage points, or 14 percent, more likely to continue to a third birth than if the first two had been boys.
This is not to say that Christian and Muslims do not value girls more than non-Christians or non-Muslims (we find evidence of that), only to stress that balanced sex ratios were found despite a preference for sons.Our findings provide further evidence on the persistence of a cultural preference for sons and the role of religious proscriptions against infanticide, traditionally the dominant method for sex selection. While no main religion has advocated infanticide, Christianity and Islam stand out in their explicit bans and equation of infanticide with manslaughter.Be that as it may, in the West, sex selection for non-health reasons re- mains controversial [Dickens, 1986], and there has been little in the aggregate data to suggest that the sex preferences for offspring, expressed in, for in- stance, Gallup polls,(22) impact sex ratios. Instead, other margins, such as labor supply, marital status and family size, appear to be affected [Lundberg and Rose, 2002, Dahl and Moretti, 2008]).(23) Whether the taboo against sex selection using abortion will extend to protect girls once sex selection at the pre-implantation becomes available and affordable remains an open question.We end with a note on son preference and assimilation. It could be argued that unlike a preference for, say, high fertility, a preference for sons and a (relative) lack of aversion to sex selective abortion is not costly to maintain in the West. The opposite might even be true since assimilation of values would raise the psychic cost of sex selection. Of course, this ignores the physical cost of pregnancy and abortion, which may be given a greater22 http://www.gallup.com/poll/28045/Americans-Continue-Express-Slight-Preference-Boys. aspx
3023 Male biased sex ratios are commonly believed to be more likely and, possibly, a more problematic, outcome of parental choice.
31weight at higher levels of affluence. This is not to say that the preference for sons is impermeable to cultural influence, including better social and economic status of women. However, our results suggest that assimilation is multidimensional. In fact, lower desired fertility may prompt higher sex ratios, as has been argued to be the case for China and the one-child policy. Conceivably, this argument can be made more forcefully in the case of Asians in Canada, since their sons are likely to be able to find brides.
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