Selective abortion of females: An analysis of
some emerging parental choices
Raaj K. Sah
University of Chicago. Working paper. September 1992.
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During the last two decades, the technology for the in vivo detection of the gender of a fetus has become available, to various degrees, in many less developed countries and newly industrialized countries. Subject to the limited availability of data, it appears that in several of these countries an emerging use of this technology is in selectively aborting female fetuses. Regardless of what the present extent of such abortions might be, a likely effect of some ongoing technological trends is that increasingly larger proportions of parents will in the future be able to selectively abort females if they wish to do so.
This paper considers parents whose propensity for sons is sufficiently high that they use, or will use in the future, gender-detection technology with the primary motivation of potentially exercising the choice of selectively aborting females. The paper focuses on parental choices concerning conceptions and selective abortions. These two choices are dynamically linked (e.g., whether a set of parents choose to undertake a conception depends partly on what their future choice concerning abortion will be when they learn the gender of the fetus). The paper analyzes some qualitative properties of these choices and attempts to assess some associated patterns of behavior concerning conceptions and selective abortions that the parents undertake and daughters that they choose to have. This includes assessing how the behavior of a set of parents might depend on the number of sons they have, the propensity for sons they have, and the costs and inconveniences of abortions they face.