Journal Article

Gendering family composition: sex preferences for children and childbearing behavior in the Nordic countries

Andersson, G., Hank, K., Rønsen, M., Vikat, A.
Demography, 43:2, 255–267 (2006)


It has been argued that a society’s gender system may influence parents’ sex preferences for children. If this is true, one should expect to find no evidence of such preferences in countries with a high level of gender equality. In this article, we exploit data from population registers from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden to examine continuities and changes in parental sex preferences in the Nordic countries during the past three to four decades. First, we do not observe an effect of the sex of the firstborn child on second-birth risks. Second, we detect a distinct preference for at least one child of each sex among parents of two children. For third births, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish parents seem to develop a preference for having a daughter, while Finns exhibit a significant preference for having a son. These findings show that modernization and more equal opportunities for women and men do not necessarily lead to parental gender indifference. On the contrary, they may even result in new sex preferences.
Keywords: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, fertility, sex preference
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.