“The Demographic Consequences of Sex-Selection Technology”

Juan Pantano, The University of Chicago

Over the last several years highly accurate methods of sex selection before conception have been developed. Given that strong preferences for sex variety in offspring have been documented for the U.S., we move beyond bioethical and moral considerations and ask what the demographic consequences of sex-selection technology could be. Lacking variation across space and time in access to this technology, we estimate a dynamic programming model of fertility decisions with microdata on fertility histories from the National Survey of Family Growth. We leverage the quasi-experimental variation inherent in the random determination of sex at conception to identify the key structural parameter characterizing preferences for sex variety in offspring. After recovering these preferences, we simulate the introduction of this technology. While this technology can reduce fertility by allowing parents efficiently reach their preferred sex mix, it could also increase fertility. This is because without this technology, many parents may opt not to have another baby given the uncertainty about its sex. Results suggest that these two effects operate simultaneously, but on net, sex selection technology ends up increasing the average family size among married women by about 2.5 percent in the steady state.