MPIDR Working Paper

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

Andersson, G., Hank, K., Rønsen, M., Vikat, A.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2004-019, 21 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (June 2004)
This working paper has been published. See the link above for further information.
Open Access


It has been argued recently that a society’s ‘gender system’ influences parents’ sex preferences for children. If this was true, one should expect to find no evidence of such preferences in countries with a high level of gender equality. In this paper we exploit population register data from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden to examine continuities and changes in parental sex preferences in the Nordic countries during the last three to four decades. First, we cannot observe a visible effect of the sex of the first-born child on second birth risks. Secondly, we detect a distinct preference for at least one child of each sex among parents of two children. Next to this combination preference our analysis reveals, thirdly, that Danish, Norwegian and Swedish parents developed a preference for having a daughter, while Finns exhibit a significant son preference. 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 might even result in ‘new’ sex preferences.
Keywords: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, 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.