Women's Work and Sex Preference for Children in India

Abhijit Visaria, University of Pennsylvania

While previous research has examined the relationship between women’s employment and fertility, the relationship between employment and children’s sex preference in India is less clear. Patrilineal kinship systems are posited to support an economic rationale for son preference based on sons’ perceived income-contributing potential. Using the National Family and Health Survey 2005-06, I examine whether women’s employment is associated with their ideal sex composition of children. I examine employment types and occupations, and differentiate between son-, daughter-, and no-preference, controlling for existing sons and daughters. I find that employment per se is associated with lower son preference, but women employed in family enterprises are more likely to prefer sons. Interestingly, women in agriculture and manual labor are gender-neutral, whereas women across service sector occupations report strong daughter preferences, suggesting that future anticipated returns from investments in sons and daughters may be more equal than have been perceived in the past.

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Presented in Poster Session 5