Children’s sex and the happiness of parents

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

August 15, 2016


Demographers are interested in sex preferences for children because they can skew sex ratios and influence population-level fertility, parenting behavior, and family outcomes. Based on parity progression ratios, in most European countries, there are no sex preferences for a first child, but a strong preference for mixed-sex children. We hypothesize that mixed-sex preferences also influence parental happiness. Parents’ disappointment with a second child of the same sex as the first could have negative effects for parents and children. We use longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel and the British Household Panel Study to examine parental happiness by the children’s sex and analyze whether these effects differ by parent’s sex, age, nativity, and educational attainment. The results are only partially consistent with predictions from parity progression ratios. As expected, parental happiness does not depend on the sex of the first child. We find weak evidence suggesting that two boys decrease happiness, but the findings are not consistent across German and British data or across subpopulations. Moreover, two girls do not reduce happiness. Although sex preferences influence fertility, they appear to have little impact on happiness, perhaps because of unobserved positive factors associated with having same-sex children.

Published in

European Journal of Population

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 32 , p.403 -420

DOI 10.1007/s10680-016-9387-z





© The Author(s) 2016

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.



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