It's a Boy! Women and Non-Monetary Benefits from a Son in India

Laura Zimmermann, University of Michigan

It is well-documented that in a number of countries unnaturally few girls are born relative to boys. Explanations have focused on a range of potential reasons, including economic and cultural benefits from having a son. Households are usually treated as monolithic entities, however, and the motivations of particular household members are understudied. In contrast, this paper looks at a potential benefit mothers derive from giving birth to a boy - an improvement in their position within the household. I analyze this hypothesis using households with young first-borns from a nationally representative Indian dataset. The results suggest that women do indeed gain in non-monetary terms: Having a boy rather than a girl leads to increased joint household decision-making powers. This effect seems to vanish after six months, however, implying that the female-specific self- interest in practicing son preference may be low.

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Presented in Session 203: Gender Roles and Children's Well-Being