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Allendorf, Keera 2019. Another Gendered Demographic Dividend? Adjusting to a Future Without Sons.

With the concept of the gendered demographic dividend, I suggest that the demographic transition may erode patriarchal family systems through the rise of sonless families. With fertility decline, the proportion of families with children of only one gender naturally increases. If the proportion of families without sons becomes sizeable, large numbers of families would not be able to maintain patriarchal practices and patriarchal family systems may weaken. I examine some of these theorized dynamics in India. First, I demonstrate that the proportion of families that are sonless did grow in recent decades as fertility declined. While the percentage sonless only reached 10% in India as a whole in 2015, this figure approached 20% in southern states with earlier fertility declines. I then assess whether children’s gender influences mothers’ expectations of old age support using panel data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS). I examine changes within women over time, comparing women’s expectations after they had children to earlier expectations when they did not yet have children. I find a substantial effect of children’s gender on mothers’ expectations. Women who went on to have sons kept or further embraced patriarchal expectations that a son would provide old age support. Expectations of women with only daughters differed profoundly. These sonless mothers largely gave up patriarchal expectations, with roughly equal numbers turning to their daughters and the rest turning away from children altogether as a source of support.