If they could only have one child, 40% of people in the US would prefer to have a boy and only 28% a girl, according to a Gallup Poll. This preference for boys has been the same since 1941, when Gallup found that 38% of Americans would choose to have a boy and 24% a girl. (The figures don’t add up to 100 % because some people have no opinion on the matter or refused to answer.)
There’s a bit of a gender breakdown to this: 49 percent of men say they’d want a son and only 22 percent a girl. Among women, 31 percent favor having a boy and 32 percent a girl. Also, younger adults (aged 18 – 29) are more likely than those older than them to say they’d rather have a boy.
Those with lower education levels are also more likely to say they’d like a boy; those with postgraduate education state no preference. Further, Republicans are more likely to want to have a boy than Democrats.
So what’s going on about why Americans would rather (stereotypically) decorate the nursery in blue? Especially given that, as Today Moms notes, “Wasn’t there a women’s movement somewhere in there?” between 1941 and now? Boys, indeed, are more likely to have learning disabilities, ADHD and definitely autism — four times as many boys than girls are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, a figure amply confirmed if you visit my son’s school, a county autism center with about 200 students, most male. The gender discrepancy stands out even more as the majority of the staff is female. (For the record, my husband and I had “no preference” about having a boy or a girl.)
As New York Times Economix blog notes, in Asian countries, there’s a marked preference to have a boy instead of a girl, with the result that China’s one-child policy has created a huge gender imbalance, as the BBC notes. Says the New York Times Economix blog:
In many East Asian countries, having boys can provide greater economic security, since in their old age parents are more likely to live with, and be financially supported by, their sons. But, as Nancy Folbre has written, the opposite is true in America: in the United States, daughters are much more likely to be caring for their elderly parents than sons are.
Then again, women may do more unpaid work than men in the United States (as well as just about everywhere else), but men still have much higher earnings. Perhaps there is a perception that having a son will guarantee greater financial stability.
Or maybe some other risks that come with having a daughter — such as unplanned pregnancies — weigh heavier in Americans’ minds when thinking about this question.
Is it simply that, even in the age of women’s rights, people still have a deeply ingrained preference for boys; that somehow having a boy is seen as (sigh) more prestigious?
If such is the case, boy oh boy, do we have a long way to go before attaining truly equal status for women in society.
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