Forget sons, Americans turn to daughters

The data is incomplete but the New York Times suggests a societal shift may be underway. The day of daughters may be at hand.

In the past, a first-born daughter was widely believed to be the reason families kept having another child, apparently to get a son.

Now, the Times says, having a daughter makes it less likely a couple will try to have more children.

Why? Once you have a daughter, why mess up a good thing with a son?

First- and second-generation American immigrants, the new study found, continue to show a preference for sons. They are more likely to keep having babies after having a daughter — particularly if they are from countries with less gender equity and lower female labor force participation.

Across cultures, the bias against daughters has been closely tied to women’s second-class status. Sons have been more likely to be successful, carry on the family name and earn money to support family members in old age.

But the status of women in the United States has undergone a revolution in the last four decades. Women still face deep inequality and sexism, but they are now more likely to pursue rewarding careers and have a greater role in family decision-making. They are also more likely to be college graduates than men.

Generally speaking, men are bad for the brand. Teenagers and men are the “bad actors” in mass shootings and most crime, men without college degrees are the most likely to struggle, robots are replacing jobs where the required skill was once brawn more than brains, and there’s the whole politics-run-by-men problem.

“It should be celebrated that parents want to raise confident young women,” said Michael Thompson, a psychologist who studies the development of boys, tells the Times. “But there is now a subtle fear of boys and the trouble they might bring. Parents think: ‘My son might have A.D.H.D., might not fit in as well in school, there might not be jobs for him. Life is going to be a little tougher for him as a boy.’ ”

The fact women are smarter than men doesn’t hurt.

“The economic trends are pretty clear,” said Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who first provided the research that once showed that a daughter leads couples to try again. “Women are more involved in the labor force, and less skilled men are less involved, and women are getting more educated and men are not.”

It was a good run, fellas.