Boy or Girl? Most Americans Want a Son

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.

Related Care2 Coverage

New Genetic Studies Suggest Why Autism Is More Common In Boys Than Girls

Ancient Male Hominids Stayed At Home While Females Wandered

Are Boys More Confident Communicators Than Girls?

Photo by anolobb.


jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

Telling, that 64% of Care2 readers voted to have a girl, well above the national average. ??? Could it be that Care2 readers are more sensitive individuals, and so are girls? Just asking. One commenter said that girls belong to Daddies and boys to Mommies -- overstating it maybe. I have two daughters, and I've loved having daughters because they've grown into women like me, so our minds understand each other.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

Interesting statistics.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Funny part of it is, it really doesn't matter in the end...

Teenage girls can be the worst. Really. And I'm glad to have a boy, because of course girls are Daddy's, boys are Mama's. Yet it's assumed that women want girls, and men want boys, but, when a girl is born, the father is the protective one. Go figure...

But none the less, to me, what's most important is that I have a healthy child.

Glen P.
Glen P6 years ago

I guess I'll be one of the honest one's here.

If by some strange fate I could only have a single child (I've none myself yet), and I were given a choice, I probably would choose a boy (I'm a man by-the-way). Though if not given the choice and I had a girl, I would love her just as much.

I assumed women would prefer girls, so not sure why that's not the case.

pam J.
pdjmoo pdjmoo6 years ago

July 2, 2011: Indians pay surgeons to turn girls into boys - Telegraph

Hillary K.
Hillary K6 years ago

Looks like we have NOT come a long way baby.

Pam J.
pdjmoo pdjmoo6 years ago

New Article Out today from Foreign Policy Magazine
@50 millionmissin Where Have All the Girls Gone? - By Mara Hvistendahl | @FP_Magazine
How did more than 160 million women go missing from Asia? The simple answer is sex selection -- typically, an ultrasound scan followed by an abortion if the fetus turns out to be female -- but beyond that, the reasons for a gap half the size of the U.S. population are not widely understood. And when I started researching a book on the topic, I didn't understand them myself.

Fred H.
Fred H6 years ago

Laurie, “where have you been?” you sarcastically ask me? In the real world.

Obviously, boys can be molested by men as well as by women, just as girls can be molested by women as well as by men. But, most men who molest boys are gay pedophiles, just as most women who molest girls are gay pedophiles, just as most men who molest girls are heterosexual pedophiles, just as most women who molest boys are heterosexual pedophiles. If you spent less time on your sarcasm and more time thinking logically, you would have realized that. So, it was much easier for me, as a heterosexual, to defend myself when the inevitable molestation accusation arose in my own custody case.

By the way, assuming you live in the real world, I have a hard time believing that you don’t know that parents regularly report that they are less worried about their boys going out than they are about their girls going out. While you are absolutely right that boys and men are just as at-risk as girls and women, you can’t possibly be unaware of our society’s focus on the dangers to girls and women, which translates into greater fears.

As to expenses, you can’t possibly shop in any mall without noticing that girls’ clothing and personal products departments dwarf those for boys.

Pam J.
pdjmoo pdjmoo6 years ago

RT @50millionmissin:@Rita_Banerji @Care2 -- Yes much of the world is sexist and wants sons! But India and China rid their daughters! Big difference! IN CHINA AND INDIA...Why Is This A 'Female Genocide' And Not a 'Gendercide' Or 'Femicide?'