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Culture, fertility, and son preference

Ellis, Jas (2008) Culture, fertility, and son preference. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

My thesis comprises three papers on individuals’ preferences over family composition and the degree to which these are culturally determined, or learnt. Prices, Norms and Preferences: The Influence of Cultural Values on Fertility This paper investigates the influence of cultural values on fertility. High country of origin fertility is associated with high fertility in the UK, in line with previous results. This is consistent with fertility preferences being a transmissible (learnable) cultural value. However, I find that high fertility in the country of origin is also associated with earlier childbearing. If timing is not accounted for, this phenomenon could lead to an upward bias when estimating the importance of cultural values. Son Preference and Culture I measure the sex preferences of immigrant women in the United Kingdom by estimating the effect of family composition on birth hazard rates. International comparisons of son preference are constructed, the first known to the author. A theoretical model suggests that costs (eg, dowries) are unlikely to explain the variation in outcomes between groups. Finally, women arriving in the UK at a young age appear to have less distinct tastes, also consistent with a primarily cultural, rather than economic, explanation for parental sex preferences. Son Preference and Sex Ratios: How many ‘Missing Women’ are Missing? When parents prefer sons, heterogeneity in the probability of having sons can lead to excess girls. I argue that this may lead to under-counting the number of ‘missing women’. Parents show significant differences in son preference between countries. I exploit these differences to simulate sex ratios in the presence of measured heterogeneity. Parents’ son preferences account for 1.5% of differences between sex ratios worldwide (significant at 10%). The presence of this effect may imply that sex ratios are more biased than previously estimated, since previous comparisons use benchmarks that already contain too few girls. Therefore there may be more women missing due to discrimination than we thought.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2008 Jas Ellis
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Weinhold, Diana
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/986

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