Understanding parental gender preferences in advanced societies: lessons from childbearing dynamics in Finland and Sweden

Gunnar Andersson, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Karsten Hank, University of Mannheim
Andres Vikat, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

It has been argued that a society's gender system might influence 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 addition, one should expect fairly similar evidence of such (non-)preferences in countries as similar as the Nordic ones. In this study, we exploit population-register data from Finland and Sweden to get better insight into patterns in parental sex preferences as they appear in third-birth dynamics during the last decades of the twentieth century. Instead of similar and non-existent parental gender preferences in the two countries, we demonstrate how Swedish parents have developed a preference for having a daughter, while Finns exhibit a significant son preference. We investigate to what extent such patterns are likely to reflect the impact of cultural factors, related to ethnicity and country of birth, and to what extent they rather reflect institutional factors related to country of residence. This is possible by also studying and comparing the childbearing dynamics of the large Finnish immigrant population of Sweden and the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland.

Presented in Session 47: Gendering family dynamics network 2