Parental sex preference for children and parity progression in Japan: new preference for daughters?

Miho Iwasawa, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Tokyo

Parental sex preference for children has a pronatalist effect in post-transitional societies. To understand the change in the third birth fertility in Japan, I focus on the role of parental sex preference for children to parity progression. Using data from large national sample surveys including third birth events from the 1930s to 2000s, I estimate period parity progression ratios and multivariate survival models on third birth progression as a function of sex of previous children and socio-demographic factors. The risk of third birth progression among same-sex families is still higher than that for mixed-sex families, suggesting that parental sex preference does inflate fertility. While the relative risk of two-girl families – indication of son preference - seems to decline somewhat, rise in the relative risk of two-boy families – daughter preference - became evident after the 1960s and finally it exceeds the level of son preference after the 1990s. Son preference is largely explained by the share of farming households, husbands of eldest son, and wives having their own brothers, suggesting that son in Japan is still expected to keep paternal lineage. Among wives without their own sisters or who have gender egalitarian attitude, the relative risk of third birth is much higher when they have only two boys (versus mixed-sex). Further investigation on such "new" preference for daughters may provide additional insight into future fertility trends in Japan.

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Presented in Session 85: Family ideals and preferences