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Popul Dev Rev. 2016 Dec;42(4):693-710. doi: 10.1111/padr.12002. Epub 2016 Nov 17.

In the Pursuit of Sons: Additional Births or Sex-Selective Abortion in Pakistan?

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Sociology Department and Carolina Population Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Even though Pakistan is a highly patriarchal society, it has not featured prominently in studies focusing on sex-selective abortion and sex ratios at birth. But with fertility declining and existing strong son preference-Pakistan has one of the highest desired sex ratios in the world-how will Pakistani families respond? In the pursuit of sons, will they have additional children or resort to sex-selective abortions? Or is there evidence that the pursuit of sons is weakening? Using data from three rounds of the demographic and health survey, we show clear evidence of son preference in fertility intentions, patterns of contraceptive use and parity progression ratios. More specifically, we find pervasive evidence that Pakistanis continue childbearing to have a son, to have more than one son and to have at least one daughter. We do not find consistent and convincing evidence that sex ratios at birth (which indicate sex-selective abortion) are increasing.

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