Son preference exerts a strong influence over contraceptive and fertility decisions in many South Asian countries. In Pakistan, where fertility remains high and contraceptive use low, research on son preference has been limited.
Data from Pakistan Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 1990–1991, 2006–2007 and 2012–2013 were used to examine potential indicators and outcomes of son preference. Descriptive analyses looked at sex composition preferences of men and women, as well as the sex ratio at last birth. Multivariate logistic regression analyses examined parity progression by birth order, while multinomial logistic regression was used to identify associations between sex composition and use of permanent, temporary and traditional contraceptive methods.
Parity progression and choice of contraceptive method are increasingly associated with the sex composition of children. Many respondents wanted at least two sons, though most also wanted at least one daughter. Analyses suggest that the prevalence of modern contraceptive use among parous women would have been 19% higher in 2012–2013 in the absence of son preference. Permanent method use was extremely low among women with no sons and increased significantly with number of sons. The association between number of sons and use of temporary methods was weaker, while son preference had little relationship with traditional method use.
The association of son preference with parity progression and modern contraceptive use has become stronger in Pakistan. Continuation of the fertility transition may be difficult unless the degrees of differential stopping behavior and differential contraceptive use decline.
Melanie Channon is a research fellow at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford, UK.
Author contact: [email protected]