Researchers has demonstrated a decline in 'son preference' by women of childbearing age in Bangladesh. However, fertility decisions are still influenced according to son preference.
The term 'son preference' refers to any situation where parents value sons over daughters and make resulting choices accordingly, which can have a strong economic and demographic impact.
"Our research reveals a discrepancy between the child sex preferences of women in Bangladesh and their actual fertility behaviour," said researcher Zaki Wahhaj from the University of Kent.
For the study, published in the journal Science Direct, the team surveyed a nationally representative sample of Bangladeshi women of childbearing age, born between 1975 and 1994, to assess how son preference is evolving.
The study finds that among women of childbearing age in Bangladesh, son preference is giving way to a desire for gender balance, a consequence of increased female education and employment. However, in contrast to these stated fertility preferences, actual fertility decisions are still shaped by son preference.
Among those Bangladeshi women yet to have a child, the proportions indicating a desire for sons and daughters were almost identical.
For those with one or two children, the presence of a son has a strong negative effect on the desire for additional sons, and the presence of a daughter has a strong negative effect on the desire for additional daughters.
The study also found evidence that the desire for gender balance in children was stronger among women who have completed secondary school and those who live in areas with more opportunities for female paid work, specifically in the ready-made garments sector.