Volume 48 - Article 8 | Pages 203–232

The sex preference for children in Europe: Children’s sex and the probability and timing of births

By Ewa Cukrowska-Torzewska, Magdalena Grabowska

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Date received:14 Jul 2022
Date published:16 Feb 2023
Word count:6170
Keywords:Europe, family structure, fertility, gender, progression rate, sex, sex composition, son preference


Background: The preference for having children of a particular sex may be reflected in fertility behavior. For example, parents who want to have a son may be more likely to have another child if their firstborn child is female or if they have two female children. They may also speed up the conception, resulting in a faster progression to the next child.

Objective: We examine whether there is a sex preference for children in Europe, which is reflected in an increased/decreased probability of having another child and a shorter/longer time to the next birth given the sex of existing children. We distinguish between progression to the second and the third child and different cohorts.

Methods: We model the impact of children’s sex on fertility using event history analysis. We apply mixture cure models, which allow us to distinguish between the probability of experiencing the event of interest and its timing.

Results: We find evidence of the preference for having a girl, reflected in an increased probability of not having a second child if the first child is female. We also find that women who have two children of the same sex are more likely to give birth to a third child.

Contribution: We contribute to research on the sex preference for children by (1) providing a comprehensive analysis of a number of European countries using consistent data and methodology, (2) examining the progression to the second and the third child, (3) distinguishing between different cohorts of women, and (4) applying mixture cure models.

Author's Affiliation

Ewa Cukrowska-Torzewska - Wydział Nauk Ekonomicznych Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland [Email]
Magdalena Grabowska - Wydział Nauk Ekonomicznych Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland [Email]

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