Demand for Sons or Demand for Fathers? Understanding the Effects of Child Gender on Union Formation and Dissolution

Laura M. Giuliano, University of Miami

We use data from the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study to explore the causes of an empirical regularity documented in several studies—that parents of boys are more likely to be married than parents of girls. We find that parents of boys are significantly less likely to divorce within three years of the baby’s birth. We also find evidence that conceiving a boy raises the probability of a “shot gun” marriage. We test four hypotheses regarding why parents of boys are less likely to divorce: (1) they are happier with their marriages; (2) they believe more strongly that staying married will improve their baby’s welfare; (3) fathers of sons prefer spending time with their children; (4) mothers of sons benefit from improved “father quality”/paternal involvement. Our results suggest that the positive effect of sons on marital stability is driven by an increase in “father quality” as reported by the mother.

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Presented in Poster Session 4