Twice as Many Americans Want Sons Over Daughters

Gender preference isn't only a foreign problem

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A new book, "Unnatural Selection," by Science writer Mara Hvistendahl looked at the tremendous shortage of women, particularly in Asia, due to sex selection. Hvistendahl focused on the West's role in exacerbating the disparity by exporting abortion technologies, and in response, many took her to task for not placing the blame on the foreign cultures themselves for valuing daughters less than sons. For example, Richard Dawkins at BoingBoing wrote that the female shortage may better "be blamed on the cultural and religious practices that despise and discriminate against women in the first place."

In light of that recent debate, a new Gallup study that almost twice as many Americans would prefer to have a son rather than a daughter is particularly unexpected, suggesting that American cultural values may be less than ideal themselves. In this new survey, out of over one thousand people interviewed, 48 percent of respondents admitted they wanted a son more than they wanted a daughter. Just 28 percent said they would rather have a daughter, and 26 percent said they would be content with either sex. The remainder had no opinion. In fact, Gallup noted that Americans' preference for a male child is even stronger today than it was in 1941, when just 38 percent preferred a son, with 24 percent preferring a daughter.

Gallup noted that age, sex, and education levels all were significant factors regarding the responses. American men, rather than women, drive the preference for male children.

In the current poll, conducted June 9-12, men favor a boy over a girl by a 49% to 22% margin. American women do not have a proportionate preference for girls. Instead, women show essentially no preference either way: 31% say they would prefer a boy and 33% would prefer a girl.

Preference for a son is inversely related to age. Americans who are younger than 30 say they would prefer a boy to a girl by a 54 percent to 27 percent margin. The difference ebbs as the respondents get older. But as most people who give birth are under the age of 30, this skew becomes more significant.

Americans with lower education levels are more likely to say they would favor a boy. However, Gallup noted that "there is, however, no concomitant income skew; higher-income Americans are exactly the same as the national average in their preference for a boy rather than a girl."

Additionally, the preference for a boy over a girl baby is higher among Republicans than among Democrats, and conservatives are significantly more likely than liberals to prefer a boy.

Gallup concludes that "the real-world implications of gender-preference attitudes in some countries around the world are profound." For Americans, the effect remains to be seen. "The degree to which Americans deliberately attempt to select the gender of their children is unclear."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.