Preferring boys to girls

According to the results of this recent Gallup poll, if Americans could have only one child 40% would prefer that the child be a boy, compared to only 28% who would that it be a girl. This level of preference for boys over girls is, dishearteningly, the same level of preference Americans reported in 1941.

There’s been a lot of discussion about preference for male children is some Asian countries, and the potential gender imbalance that China’s “one child policy” could create as a result. There’s also been a predictable amount of scrambling around to explain the displayed preference for male children in Asian countries by some deep East-West divide, or some ingrained sexism in Chinese culture.

The results of polls like this one call those explanations into question. Differences between Asian and American culture aside, people just tend to prefer boys.

5 thoughts on “Preferring boys to girls

  1. Mere curiosity: I wonder if the preference rates are different in provinces/states/countries that forbid women from taking their husband’s family name upon marriage. My guess is that the percentage wouldn’t drop significantly, but I am curious as to whether that kind of consideration plays into the responses, particularly for Westerners with uncommon family names.

    In any case, interesting poll result. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. If one prefers an economic explanation for the preference, then presumably America and China would be on the “same side”, so to speak. America is still a society where the availability of health care and basic necessities are often tied to the breadwinner.

    I think it would be interesting to ask the same question in Norway or Sweden.

  3. My intuition was something like Michel X’s, as I promptly thought that the *reason* for preferring a boy in this artificial scenario may be driven by a correlation with wishing names ‘carried on,’ and whatnot. After all, the preference for boys tended to correlate in the Gallup poll with conservative leanings and maleness, just as it did in a poll two years ago about whether or not women should take men’s names after marriage:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-08-11-change-name_N.htm

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