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Cult Health Sex. 2008 Oct;10(7):697-708. doi: 10.1080/13691050802061665.

'Too many girls, too much dowry': son preference and daughter aversion in rural Tamil Nadu, India.

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Population Studies and Training centre, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.


The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has experienced a dramatic decline in fertility, accompanied by a trend of increased son preference. This paper reports on findings from qualitative interviews with women in rural villages about their fertility decision-making. Specifically addressed are the reasons behind increasing son preference and the consequences of this change. Findings suggest that daughter aversion, fuelled primarily by the perceived economic burden of daughters due to the proliferation of dowry, is playing a larger role in fertility decision-making than son preference. The desire for a son is often trumped by the worry over having many daughters. Women use various means of controlling the sex of their children, which in this study appear to be primarily female infanticide. It is important to distinguish between son preference and daughter aversion and to examine repercussions of low fertility within this setting.

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