New Poll: More Americans Prefer Baby Boys to Baby Girls


LiveScience is reporting a new Gallup Poll which finds: 

If they were only allowed to have one child, more Americans would prefer it be a boy rather than a girl, a new survey finds.

Despite the intervening woman's movement, the results are very similar to those found when the same question was asked of Americans in 1941.

The Gallup polling agency asked a random sample of 1,020 American adults whether they'd prefer to have a girl or a boy if they could only chose one. Forty percent said they'd pick a boy, 28 percent said they would want a girl, and the rest didn't mind either way or weren't sure.

In 1941, Americans asked a similar question responded with 38 percent preferring a boy, 24 percent preferring a girl, and the rest with no preference. The question has been asked eight other times in the intervening years, with the numbers remaining fairly constant.

The preference for boys over girls is driven by men, 49 percent of whom said they'd want a son. Only 22 percent said they'd prefer a daughter. Women, in contrast, showed no significant preference, with 31 percent preferring a boy and 32 percent preferring a girl.

Americans younger than 30 are the most likely to say they'd prefer a boy, with 54 percent making that choice, and 27 percent preferring a baby girl. The gap then declines steadily with age. Education also plays a role: People with a postgraduate education break even in their preferences, while 44 percent of those with a high-school education or less prefer boys, compared with 25 percent who prefer girls.

The restriction of having but one child seems critical here. A 2006 study pubiished in the journal Fertility and Sterility asked 1,997 Americans what their preferences for a child's sex would be if they could take advantage of preconception sex selection technologies. The researchers reported

Eight percent of respondents would use preconception sex selection technology, 74% were opposed, and 18% were undecided. If the sex selection process was simplified to taking a pill, 18% would be willing to use such a medication, 59% were opposed, and 22% were undecided. In terms of gender choices, 39% of respondents would like their first child to be a son, 19% would like their first child to be a daughter, and 42% had no preference. Overall, 50% wished to have a family with an equal number of boys and girls, 7% with more boys than girls, 6% with more girls than boys, 5% with only boys, 4% with only girls, and 27% had no preference.

Preconception sex selection technology via sperm separation is unlikely to be used by the majority of the United States population and is unlikely to have a significant impact on the natural sex ratio.

Of course, the practice of sex selective abortions is significantly skewing male/female sex ratios in China and India. But relative scarcity may have an upside; a 2010 paper found some evidence that baby girls in India are being treated better [PDF] than previously. 

For more on the ethics and science of sex selection see my earlier columns here and here