“Daughters Are Good in Every Way”: Fertility Decline and Changing Child Gender Preference in Rural Bangladesh

Roslyn S. Fraser, University of Missouri at Columbia
Howard Kress, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Mary K. Shenk, University of Missouri at Columbia

In the last four decades rural Bangladesh has experienced rapid fertility decline and economic change, including significant male out-migration. This paper explores the effects of these changes on the social roles of men and women in Matlab, Bangladesh. While many have argued that son preference is exacerbated by fertility decline, interview data from 2010 suggests that daughters are becoming more highly valued as family size decreases while sons are increasingly perceived as less reliable. Some families are even eschewing the traditional practice of patrilocal residence. We argue that changes in the role of “daughter” may mean daughters are buffering social losses resulting from decreased fertility and out-migration of sons. Data for this study come from field work conducted by the authors in early 2010, including 50 ethnographic interviews and a quantitative survey of 944 women in rural Matlab, Bangladesh.

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Presented in Session 116: Fertility Decline and Changing Gender Relations