Girls preferred? Changing patterns of gender preferences in the two German states.

Brockmann, H.
European Sociological Review, 17:2, 189–202 (2001)


Parental preferences for the sex of children are a prominent subject of study in some Asian and African countries, where sex-selective behaviour has led to skewed sex-ratios, In Europe and North-America, by contrast, cross-sectional data does not reveal any clear pattern of sex preferences. However, this does not mean that people are indifferent to the sex of their children. Taking a longitudinal perspective, this paper shows how sex preferences in Germany have changed over time. Based on German cohort data, event-history models reveal a significant boy preference among women born in the German Reich before 1910. This pattern vanishes among cohorts ten years younger. After World War II, West-German women never developed a clear sex preference. East-German women, by contrast, show a significant preference for girls. This pattern is absorbed by the pro-family policy that was launched in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) during the 1970s. In conclusion, the paper argues that the process of modernization does not neutralize sex preferences as is often assumed. Rather, it may give rise to diverging sex preferences depending on the specific type of welfare regime. (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS)
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