MPIDR Working Paper

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

Brockmann, H.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-1999-010
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (September 1999)
Open Access


Parental preferences for the sex of children are a prominent subject of study in some Asian and African countries where sex-selective behavior has led to skewed sex-ratios. In Europe or 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 and in response to changes in welfare regime. Based on German cohort data, event-history models reveal a significant boy-preference among women born before 1910 during the German Reich. After the world war II, women in West-Germany never developed a clear sex-preference, but cohorts born in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) show a significant preference for girls. This pattern is absorbed by the pro-family policy that was launched by the socialist regime during the seventies. 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. (AUTHOR)
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.