October 03, 2003
Baby Boys Keep Marriages Together Better Than Baby Girls

Steven E. Landsburg reports in Slate on a new study that finds male babies keep marriages together better than female babies.

In the United States, the parents of a girl are nearly 5 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of a boy. The more daughters, the bigger the effect: The parents of three girls are almost 10 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three boys. In Mexico and Colombia the gap is wider; in Kenya it's wider still. In Vietnam, it's huge: Parents of a girl are 25 percent more likely to divorce than parents of a boy.

The Slate article reports on a paper published by Gordon Dahl of the University of Rochester and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and Enrico Moretti of UCLA and NBER) enitlted The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage. (PDF format and that is a draft copy of the paper)

Specifically, we show that having girls has significant effects on divorce, marriage, shotgun marriage (i.e., when the sex of the child is known before birth), remarriage, fertility stopping rules, and child support payments.

Using a simple model, we show that, taken individually, each piece of evidence does not necessarily imply the existence of parental gender bias. But taken together, our empirical evidence indicates that US parents strongly favor boys over girls. The bias is quantitatively important, but seems to be slowly decreasing over time. When we compare the US with five developing countries, we find that gender bias in the US is generally smaller, and is only a fraction of the bias in China.

We begin by documenting the effect of offspring gender composition on the probability of divorce. We find that mothers with girls are significantly more likely to be divorced than mothers with boys. The effect is quantitatively substantial, explaining a 4% to 8% rise in divorce rates in the U.S.1 By itself, this effect is not necessarily evidence of parental bias. For example, it is well documented in the child psychology and sociology literature that the presence of the father in the household when kids are growing up is more important for boys than girls.2 It is possible that parents have unbiased gender preferences, but they decide to avoid or delay divorce if they have boys because they realize the harmful effects of raising a son without a father present in the household. We call this the “role model” hypothesis. Alternatively, it is also possible that the monetary, psychological, or time costs of raising girls are different than the costs of raising boys. A higher cost of raising girls could also explain the documented effect of children’s gender on divorce.

We turn to the effect of child gender composition on marriage. We find that, controlling for family size, women with only girls are substantially more likely to have never been married than women with only boys. The chance a women will be married decreases by two to seven percent for an all-girl family relative to an all-boy family, depending on family size. For divorcees, a similar pattern emerges. Not only are divorced mothers with all-girl offspring less likely to remarry, when they do remarry they are more likely to get a second divorce.

Perhaps the most striking evidence comes from the analysis of shotgun marriages using Vital Statistics data. First we show that, at delivery, gender of the first child is not correlated with marital status for first time mothers. This is reassuring, because for most parents in the sample, gender of the first child is unknown until birth. We then test whether gender of the child affects marital status at delivery when gender is known in advance (with high probability) because the mother has taken an ultrasound test during pregnancy. Among women who have had an ultrasound test, we find that mothers who have a girl are less likely to be married at delivery than mothers who have a boy. We interpret this finding as evidence that fathers who find out their child will be a boy are more likely to marry their partner before delivery.3

The first footnote reports that gender mix in offspring also reduces probability of divorce.

1 While not the focus of this paper, we also find that gender mix reduces the probability of divorce. Other researchers have also documented a demand for variety (Ben-Porath and Welch, 1976, 1980; Rosenzweig and Wolpin, 1980). Angrist and Evans use the demand for a mixed sibling-sex composition to study the effect childbearing on female labor supply (1998).

It might be that having a gender mix in offspring provides each spouse with a child they can better identify with and relate to or otherwise to be satisfied with the result that both spouses may feel more satisfied with the marriage:

2 There is much evidence that fathers play a bigger role in the development of their sons than their daughters. Fathers spend more time with their sons (Lamb 1976; Morgan, Lye and Condran, 1988). Longitudinal data on child development show that the absence of a father has more severe and enduring impact on boys than girls. For example, boys are found to suffer more from divorces than girls (Hetereington, Cox and Cox, 1978). In most cases, children are assigned to the mother, irrespective of sex.

Perhaps men subconsciously realize that there is a greater need for them to stick around for their sons than for their daughters? Or perhaps the behavior of being more desirous to stick around for raising sons was evolutionarily selected for because sons need their fathers more than daughters do?

Also, having daughters leads to polygamy:

Our final piece of international evidence utilizes the fact that 12 percent of marriages in Kenya are polygamous. Among all married women, we find that those with girls are more likely to be in a polygamous relationship compared to women with boys. We interpret this as evidence that the desire for boys lead some husbands to marry another woman if his first wife delivers a girl.

All these results suggest that as the technology for controlling offspring sex becomes more widespread the effect will be to increase the ratio of male to female offspring on a worldwide scale. Think about that. Will males become more common than females all over the world in 20 or 30 years? While some radical feminists are arguing that men are obsolete and headed for the dustbin of history people are using technology to have more male than female offspring.

Those who think this will necessarily boost the status of women in a society might be surprised by the effect that the use of amniocentesis and ultrasound to guide sex selective abortions is having in India: Girl Shortage Causes Wife Buying In India. The female shortage in India and China may become a worldwide phenomenon as other methods of baby gender selection such as the service offered by Microsort become more widely available.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 October 03 03:31 PM  Biotech Society


Comments
Sanjana said at February 5, 2005 9:27 PM:

THAT IS SO FUKED UP

michelle said at March 1, 2005 7:48 AM:

girl babys are sweet, as a mother of both boys and girls i am disgusted at what i have read, its the men wanting to have power again, you see if there are more girls the mens power will decline, men have always been scared of women taking over the world, i think something should be done about this, its a war as far as im concerned,but the sad thing is weak women go along with the man, this shows woen are not being accepted as equals. men need to learn to respect us, without the female the whole of the human race would die, but without men women could still survive on frozen sperm. so who is really important here.

Jennifer said at March 11, 2005 1:43 PM:

Since men can't have the babies themselves they have controlled women to make sure they get their "precious" sons. Just look at China and India. The funny thing is is that so many women go along with their thinking, even in the US. So many women I know say they'd rather have boys than girls and some even go on to say because it would make their husbands happier. They should go live in China or India then. Isn't it funny how girls are not supposed to be born but we're supposed to miraculously appear out of nowhere when it comes time to give them their sex. Well, I wasn't put on this earth to give a man his precious sons and please his every whim.

Veronica said at April 27, 2005 10:00 PM:

Quote: "...people are using technology to have more male than female offspring."
You can perfectly see from what is written here that MEN are using technology to have more males. MEN care for a son better, MEN stay home if they have a son...etc.
Do men feel so threatened by women that they are even afraid of their own baby daughters?

Willoz said at August 9, 2005 8:04 AM:

What ever !@ I just found out i am having a girl ! Wooot! I am very excited to raise a beautifull girl and show her what a father is all about.

Alex said at September 14, 2005 11:41 AM:

I fail to see where the author did anything other than bring to light implications derived from empirical study. The fact remains that women are physically inferior to men. Those who are stronger physically are genetic anomalies or the product of pharmaceutical enhancement. Women are explosively catty and if left alone in a room for any extended period, they would be at each other's throats. I learned this through years of living with 3 sisters who vascillate between love and contempt for one another as often as I change my socks. Having 2 daughters myself, I have also enjoyed the hellish experience of puberty and intervening in the frequent melodramatics exhibited by my daughters and wife. My son was the easiest of them all and merely required food, clothing and incessant hugs. Female children are more complex and difficult to raise and any argument to the contrary is dogmatism. Overall, the data reflects a troubling aspect of the human condition. However, being a good father is an aspect independent of the gender of the child. I love all my children and would continue to raise them in the highly unlikely event of divorce. Ladies, get over your insecurities!!

Nectar said at October 27, 2005 4:24 PM:

Replying to previous posts: this article reveals insights into human evolution; it shouldn't be interpreted as making statements on the relative value of different sexes.

Molly said at January 4, 2006 12:03 PM:

WOW! You know my husband and I have a great little girl. And let me tell you he could not have been better with a boy. He loves her so much. We just found out that we are going to have a boy now and he is the first one to let everyone know that my little girl does not take a back seat to the boy. Who ever wrote this crap needs to never have children. It scares me that there are people out there thinking this way.

Lisa said at January 18, 2006 4:53 PM:

I have heard women in the US make comments that had me seeing red. While pregnant you can't imagine the negative responses I heard when I said I was having a baby girl. The mothers of boys all said things like my boy was so much easier then my daughter and girls are so whiney good luck. I was starting to get offended for sure. Since the birth of my daughter who is now two years old, I could not be more blessed. She is a very easy going, sweet natured little girl. I plan on putting forth every effort humanly possible to preserve and protect this very lovely daughter of mine......

Julie said at February 11, 2006 7:50 PM:

I am a 25 year old mother of 2 beautiful boys. 2 1/2 years old and a newborn. I have been married for 5 years. I would never trade my boys, however, had I had a baby girl I would love her just the same. My father had 2 sisters, and then was blessed with 2 daughters, now he has 3 grandsons total and is wishing for a granddaughter, what does that tell you..... I say.... "IT'S NOT THE CHILDREN THAT MAKE THE MARRIAGE , IT'S THE MARRIAGE THAT MAKES THE CHILDREN "....................... If your meant to be, then you will be, and how dare anyone blame a child for their failure!!!!!!!!!

Sue said at March 20, 2006 1:27 AM:

I'm surprized at the way some readers take it personally. I agree that those reactions show insecurity.
The article intrigues me to consider the possibility that a female shortage will spread world wide. I'm not too concerned about it as I am secure in my little life and will be gone before it gets much farther. I also am not one to get afraid of gloom and doom predictions. We each get by as best we can and I dont image I can change the world. It has been and will be what it is.

On a personal side. I have four boys. This artcle gives me new insight into perhaps how the heck my marriage has lasted lo this 20 miserable years! Maybe if we had girls I'd be free of the father!!!

Carol said at March 22, 2006 8:59 AM:

Oh dear, someone has "put the cat among the pigeons!" There seems nothing left to say - life is life, love is love, children are children, we will be what we will be. ALL children are God given gifts - girl or boy. We as people live and make choices and decisions and live with the consequences of them! - sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad - our children have no part to play in taking responsibility for those actions. We consider our children and the affect upon their lives that our choices and decisions will make but it is us as adults who take the full responsibility. Children neither break or make a marriage! That's our department as adults!! If the marriage fails (as mine did), then it's us as adults who were unable to accept or adjust to the changes in relationships that children bring.

But you have to admit - whether we feel that the article is right or wrong - it was interesting!!

Regards

Francisca Ruddock said at April 21, 2006 1:35 PM:

I agree totally, my first marriage lasted as long as it did for the sake of our sons. I am now with a new partner and am expecting twin girls. I am devastated. I really dont want any girls EVER. My sons are easygoing, loving, easy to raise, peaceful and need very little in the way of separating. Unlike all the girls I know........ ten minutes and it's hellfire. I can have both my sons and 4 friends in a room and it's laughter and good natured ribbing all round. Put one girl in the room and it's like a bomb was thrown in. Not suprising that this sort of thing would test the strongest marriage is it. I don't want more sons for my partner only (although it would be lovely) I want them for me and my peaceful, loving home. I dread the coming years and the hormonal shouting and bitching and hope my partner and I survive it intact. I know without doubt we would if these babies were boys, just finding out today that it's girls has upset both of us and created an atmosphere.

Nancy-Anne McLaren said at April 26, 2006 5:53 PM:

THAT IS A LIE
one set of my grandparents has three girls and one boy
the other has four girls
my parents have four girls
out of 12 children 11 of them are girls and all of those couples are happily married!
P.S. francisca ruddock, sue, and alex are sexist bastards and bitches

Psych Grad Student said at April 30, 2006 8:38 PM:

Ha... if you dont want girls.. then have an abortion or give them up... if you don't believe in having an abortion.. then get over it... everything happens for many reasons.. --probably because you dreaded having females.. you are now given two.... my god... its not that bad... be open minded.. you may be expecting the worst..but it could be the best... you could find that two females are precious... and loving and giving.. its all in the way you raise them.. if you teach them to bitch and complain... then they WILL be bitches, but if you love them...then... they have a greater chance of loving back... its all how you look at it...

Andy said at November 20, 2006 4:16 PM:

ladies....grow up, real men (like me) dont fear women in control

Jamie said at February 26, 2007 5:13 PM:

I am distraught with what I have read on here. Societies in which there is a surplus of males will be catastrophic for everyone.(96% of crime is caused by males after all - Uk figures). Countries like China and india should be forced to reverse the damage they are causing by aborting their 'precious' sons instead of baby girls. There isnt anything precious about having a son and as far as Im concerned Daughters are far more important and this is the way forward for WORLD PEACE. We need to be educating couples about this aswell.
Ive also never heard so much nonsense that marriages are more likely to be kept together if the offspring is male!!

NYC_Princess said at April 20, 2007 11:18 AM:

@ Francesca Ruddock:
U said a mouthful! I agree with you wholeheartedly. When I only had two sons, it was so peaceful in my house. Now, having added two girls to the mix, there is so much melodrama. My oldest daughter argues with everyone, my youngest is whiny and they both need so much. And yes, I also notice the difference in how my husband "helps" with the girls- he doesn't!!! He doesn't change diapers, he acts like they are made of glass and he never takes them anywhere unless I am there, because they might need to go to the bathroom he says. With my sons, he was so hands on. He changed diapers, he enjoyed playing with them and he took them out with the fellas every weekend. Girls are just different.

The author would of course not touch on this, being a scientist, but there is an old wives tale that you can tell who loves who more by the sex of a baby. Mothers with more sons may be just more loving to their husbands and thusly have stronger marraiges?

I love all-boy families and crime stats aside, little boys are a blessing and a treasure. All you feminists out there who are so disgusted and reading so much into this, need to just chill. Stop being so angry and self centered, love a man and have a son for him and you'll all feel so much better, lol : )

House of Gaunt said at June 4, 2007 2:49 PM:

It's really vute and touching to hear about you all-boy families or parents with boys but I'm 15 and my brother is 13 and I don't think I've ever met a more hormonal, bitchy, self-centered prick in my entire life. People who have sons, brothers, male cousins who aren't potheads staying up in the rooms all day or invalid blobs know that the cute little quiet, sweet, relaxed boy turns into an animal as soon as he hits puberty. Let me put the low-down for you girls' and boys' lovers. Girls masturbate, orgasm, think/breathe/talk about sex. Boys masturbate, orgasm, think/breathe/talk about sex. At about the same time. Girls and boys go through terrible twos. Boys and girls spread rumours, make crude remarks, and turn into mean, nasty people when they hit their teens. They're both going to get on the bus for their first day of high school with smiles on their faces and come home a distressed train-wreck. The only difference lies here: boys will come home with a black-eye saying their fine and then go up to their rooms and punch a whole in their bedroom wall; girls will come home crying, put the blame on you, and then go upstairs break their stereo speakers with "I Hate You" music/trash. Boys are easier only because they keep their emotions inside. Girls are harder because they explicitly don't. Yeah, I know a crying, whiny, over-dramatic tween girl is not the first thing you want to come home to after a long day of work. But what's even more annoying is when your parents don't pry ewnough because they think you're okay and then your emotions escalade to a dangerous pace.

Hehehe, I'm finally getting to my point here: Real boys (not "You look nice, mom," "I Love you mommy," "Daddy, you're the greatest," pre-pubescent, undescended testicles' boys) are no easier than your over-exaggerated descriptions of daughters. I don't cry, I don't whine, I don't complain (unless I'm pre-menstrual, and don't give me that look), and I'm certainly not catty. But my athletic, hyper-masculine, brother. The same brother who jerks off to picyures of the girl who lives on the next street over, and who spends most of his time in my cousins garage dipping his arms in gasolene and blowing up random car parts. Maybe your sons are just laid-back, relaxed individuals? Maybe your girls are just going through a stage that makes them more on edge?

And for all you "Boys' are so much easier because they just sit their like sedated dogs" must realize that "dogs" come with fleas, and puppies, and full bladders. Still don't believe me? You can have my brother, my cousin, and my dad. You can kiss your TV, your peaceful quietness, your windows, and your car engine goodbye. Say hello to farting games =)

And for all you "I love little girls, they are so cute in their pink little princess dresses" remember that princesses turn in queens and I don't mean that in a good economical sense =)

Oh and please just love your children before they find out about your selfish, pig-like gender preferences and make fuck your lives up even more.

*tries to catch breath* 'Nuff said....

Oh and NYC_ Princess: What are you, chopped liver? I mean come on, you're a goddamn female for fuckin' sake. I mean I like boys too but mostly because they're useful in the sack. You couldn'te have been more blunt if your middle-name was hypocracy ;]. Also, it's genetically impossible for you to conceive a son because everyone knows the father gives off the sex chromosome. So love a man and have a son for him only by the sex determination of his own sperm. If it turns out to be a girl, he has only himself to blame. *shrugs*

Alex's son is spoiled brat said at April 22, 2009 5:52 AM:

"Alex said at September 14, 2005 11:41 AM:
I fail to see where the author did anything other than bring to light implications derived from empirical study. The fact remains that women are physically inferior to men. "

****OOOOO, another insecure, biased male. Next.....


Those who are stronger physically are genetic anomalies or the product of pharmaceutical enhancement.

****Women have higher pain thresholds than men, dufus.

Women are explosively catty and if left alone in a room for any extended period, they would be at each other's throats.

****Look at the violence men have caused in this world....next.........

I learned this through years of living with 3 sisters who vascillate between love and contempt for one another as often as I change my socks.

*****Probably because YOUR weak, misogynistic, biased father handed you everything on a platter, and treated them like shit, is more like it, moron.


Having 2 daughters myself, I have also enjoyed the hellish experience of puberty and intervening in the frequent melodramatics exhibited by my daughters and wife.

***LOL, I doubt with your hateful mindset you treated your wife and daughters very well. Get over yourself, dummy.

My son was the easiest of them all and merely required food, clothing and incessant hugs.

***The little bugger was probably a spoiled little brat handed everything by you. How empty your soul must be to pamper somebody just because they have a penis. You are to be pitied, you hateful jerk.

Female children are more complex and difficult to raise and any argument to the contrary is dogmatism.

***They are certainly more unique and complex than your spoiled, worthless male child, honey.

Overall, the data reflects a troubling aspect of the human condition. However, being a good father is an aspect independent of the gender of the child. I love all my children and would continue to raise them in the highly unlikely event of divorce. Ladies, get over your insecurities!!

***Face it, you don't love ALL your children, just the token penis. Men, get over your insecurities and hatred of women!!!!!
P.S. Alex, your boy isn't special....I bet he's an idiot, trouble in school and in the neighbourhood, and a self-righteous, pampered louse to boot.

Glad I'm a human being, not a woman hating Reaganazi said at April 22, 2009 6:00 AM:

"NYC_Princess said at April 20, 2007 11:18 AM:
@ Francesca Ruddock:
U said a mouthful! I agree with you wholeheartedly. When I only had two sons, it was so peaceful in my house. Now, having added two girls to the mix, there is so much melodrama. My oldest daughter argues with everyone, my youngest is whiny and they both need so much. And yes, I also notice the difference in how my husband "helps" with the girls- he doesn't!!! He doesn't change diapers, he acts like they are made of glass and he never takes them anywhere unless I am there, because they might need to go to the bathroom he says. With my sons, he was so hands on. He changed diapers, he enjoyed playing with them and he took them out with the fellas every weekend. Girls are just different.

The author would of course not touch on this, being a scientist, but there is an old wives tale that you can tell who loves who more by the sex of a baby. Mothers with more sons may be just more loving to their husbands and thusly have stronger marraiges?

I love all-boy families and crime stats aside, little boys are a blessing and a treasure. All you feminists out there who are so disgusted and reading so much into this, need to just chill. Stop being so angry and self centered, love a man and have a son for him and you'll all feel so much better, lol : ) "

********Maybe all you ditzy, man-pleasing and female child hating Reaganazis ought to think a little more why you married weak, selfish, hateful men who treat your daughters like SHIT.
Your husband is a JOKE, honey, a weak, stupid, COWARDLY prick.
What is it with you right-wing women doing ANYTHING for worthless men? Is a meal ticket worth destroying your female childrens' lives?
God, you right wing cows will do anything for cock......Get a life, you doormat, your man and your shitty little boys aren't that special....


Get over yourself, Alex. said at May 8, 2010 2:23 PM:

I fail to see where the author did anything other than bring to light implications derived from empirical study. The fact remains that women are physically inferior to men. Those who are stronger physically are genetic anomalies or the product of pharmaceutical enhancement. Women are explosively catty and if left alone in a room for any extended period, they would be at each other's throats. I learned this through years of living with 3 sisters who vascillate between love and contempt for one another as often as I change my socks. Having 2 daughters myself, I have also enjoyed the hellish experience of puberty and intervening in the frequent melodramatics exhibited by my daughters and wife. My son was the easiest of them all and merely required food, clothing and incessant hugs. Female children are more complex and difficult to raise and any argument to the contrary is dogmatism. Overall, the data reflects a troubling aspect of the human condition. However, being a good father is an aspect independent of the gender of the child. I love all my children and would continue to raise them in the highly unlikely event of divorce. Ladies, get over your insecurities!!


Get over your anger issues, boy. I bet that your "precious" son was handed everything in his spoiled, pampered little existence, huh? Easiest to raise? No, you probably treated him better because he had a penis.
My guess is your daughters were way better naturally than your token little penis and you couldn't accept that fact.
I guess the jokes on you, boy.

P.S. You aren't a good father.

mimah said at June 17, 2010 6:24 PM:

yep I'd have to agree my relationship was falling apart around me until I had my son, I had two girls and all my partner would ever say was he was sick of living with girls and that he needed somebody who understood him, he became very resentful and abusive towards me and blamed me for everything that was wrong in our life right up until our son was born then over night he became a different person, its not the mothers fault or the little girls its the men they are pigs and think the are gods gift its never gonna change, the best I can hope for is that I can raise my own little boy to respect women and see how much they have to offer the world and that without a woman he wouldn't even be here , if he ever has little girls of his own I hope he cherishes them with all his heart like my daddy did me, my dad would have died for me and he is still with my mother he is one of the exceptions to the rule I think or maybe it was because my mum already had 3 boys from previous relationships that he bonded with so it didn't matter that I was a girl???

What is with all of this hate, anger, frustration, & extremism? said at August 19, 2010 3:33 AM:

A few points:
The word "divorce" should not be in any couples vocabulary
All abortions should be illegal
Sex should be saved for marriage (monogamous relationships are healthier in many wasy)
There shouldn't be any any extremism (feminism and vice versa, you need a healthy balance and that applies to many things)
Just to have five: The angrier and more resentful you are to others the more likely that they are to be angry and resentful back. If you can learn to love everyone it can solve a lot of problems.

That being said parents need to be good parents. Love their spouse and children more than anything and don't forget to show it.

My wife and I were hoping for a girl but we are having a boy any day now and neither of us could be happier. She is the only woman I've ever been with and it WILL stay that way. We're still wanting our little girl, maybe next time. (even though I'm all about some love I'm not referring to promiscuity, hippies, or drugs)

Joe said at April 7, 2012 8:01 AM:

********Maybe all you ditzy, man-pleasing and female child hating Reaganazis ought to think a little more why you married weak, selfish, hateful men who treat your daughters like SHIT.
Your husband is a JOKE, honey, a weak, stupid, COWARDLY prick.
What is it with you right-wing women doing ANYTHING for worthless men? Is a meal ticket worth destroying your female childrens' lives?
God, you right wing cows will do anything for cock......Get a life, you doormat, your man and your shitty little boys aren't that special....


JERK!I'd kill you and all your daughters if you have some.And if you throw boys at adoption center I'd kill all your friends too.(all female ones)Sexist asshole with shitty girls.

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