My latest paper, on how birth spacing changed in India with the introduction of sex selection, is now available. I am presenting a poster on this paper this coming Friday at the Population Association of America's annual meeting in Denver.
Strong son preference is typically associated with shorter birth spacing in the absence of sons, but access to sex selection has the potential to reverse this pattern because each abortion extends spacing by six to twelve months. I introduce a statistical method that simultaneously accounts for how sex selection increases the spacing between births and the likelihood of a son. Using four rounds of India’s National Family and Health Surveys, I show that, except for first births, the spacing between births increased substantially over the last four decades, with the most substantial increases among women most likely to use sex selection. Specifically, well-educated women with no boys now exhibit significantly longer spacing and more male-biased sex ratios than similar women with boys. Women with no education still follow the standard pattern of short spacing when they have girls and little evidence of sex selection, with medium-educated women showing mixed results. Finally, sex ratios are more likely to decline within spells at lower parities, where there is less pressure to ensure a son, and more likely to increase or remain consistently high for higher-order spells, where the pressure to provide a son is high.