Like daughter, like son?

Publication Subtitle

Fertility decline and the transformation of gender systems in the family

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Publication Author

Keera Allendorf, University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana

One important question for population research is whether fertility decline and control transform gender systems. This paper contributes to answering this broad question by examining whether and how fertility decline may change the relative value and roles of daughters versus sons in families. First, I outline theoretical pathways, suggesting that a key factor is the gender composition of families. As fertility declines, the proportion of families with children of only one gender increases, which facilitate greater gender symmetry between daughters and sons. Second, drawing on semi-structured interviews with 30 respondents, I explore how fertility decline may be transforming the relative value and roles of sons and daughters in practice in one Indian village. I describe perceptions of gendered changes in son preference, education, marriage and pre-marital relationships, and parental support in old age. The analysis is also supplemented with data on the larger region from the census and surveys.

This research is part of the Fertility & Empowerment Network Working Paper Series, which is examining whether and to what extent increasingly smaller family sizes in lower and middle income countries have empowered women or resulted in fundamental transformations in inequitable gender systems.