How Parents’ Preference for Their Future Children’s Gender Affects Educational Outcomes for Sons and Daughters

According to a new study led by Vida Maralani, associate professor of sociology at Cornell University, spouses frequently disagree on their preferences for the genders of their future children. These preferential differences can result in varied educational outcomes for sons and daughters depending on the parents’ country of origin.

For the study, Dr. Maralani examined data from 60 middle- and low-income countries from around the world to understand how frequently spouses disagree on sex preferences for their children. India was found to have the highest rate of spousal agreement at 59 percent, and Niger has the lowest rate at 32 percent. When parents disagreed, it was usually associated with the male parent demonstrating a strong preference for sons over daughters. Women parents were more likely to want more daughters, have an equal amount of sons and daughters, or have no preference.

Dr. Maralani went on to investigate how these differences in gender preference affected educational outcomes in countries that have a strong cultural preference for sons. When wives in Niger, Nigeria, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire demonstrated a stronger preference for sons than their husbands, the couple’s sons received more education than daughters. In another context, girls in India, Togo, and Liberia receive more education than boys when their parents have a preference for daughters or no preference. Across all countries analyzed in the study, agreement on preference for daughters or no preference was the only category consistently associated with better educational outcomes for girls compared to boys.

Dr. Maralani is an honors graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in history. She holds a master’s degree in history from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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