Preference for boys persists among 2nd generation South Asian parents, study finds

Alarming that preference carries through to the second generation:

Where are all the girls?

A new Ontario study has found the preference for boys among South Asian parents persists among second-generation families born and raised in Canada, pushing the male-to-female ratio to 280 boys born for every 100 girls.

Previous research showed that women born in India, who already had two daughters, gave birth in Ontario to 196 boys for every 100 girls — compared to just 104 boys per 100 girls among non-South Asians — but the new finding surprised even the researchers.

While immigrants tend to assimilate over time, “from the evidence we see, this suggests it is different when it comes to the preference for sons,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Susitha Wanigaratne, a social epidemiologist and post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

The study, published Thursday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, examined live births to first- and second-generation mothers of South Asian ethnicity between 1993 and 2014, based on data from the institute, the immigration department and the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Discharge Abstract.

Almost 10,300 live births to second-generation South Asian mothers and 36,687 live births to their first-generation counterparts in Ontario were identified.

Among the second-generation South Asian mothers with two previous daughters and at least one prior abortion, 280 boys were born for every 100 girls, which was greater than the male-to-female ratio among their first-generation peers. The report suggests both groups of mothers are likely taking part in sex-selective abortion in Ontario.

The researchers looked at many different combinations of order, number and gender of births, but found third births among mothers with two previous daughters revealed a significant increase in the male-to-female ratios.

Born and raised in Brampton, Manvir Bhangu, founder of a non-profit group that promotes gender equity among South Asians in Greater Toronto, said she was both shocked and saddened by the findings.

“Even though you were born and grew up in Canada and are highly educated, you still can’t get away from the culture. You are surrounded by it. South Asian women carry the honour of the family on their shoulders for their parents and in-laws,” said Bhangu, 26, of Laadliyan Celebrating Daughters. (Laadliyan, in Punjabi and Hindi, means beloved daughters.)

“It comes down to having a place at home and in the community. It makes a big difference in your presence in the family whether you give birth to three boys or three girls. It’s easier to be loved and wanted by the people around you with three boys. People do make nasty comments if you have three girls,” added Bhangu, a co-author of the study. “The bottom line is keeping the family name alive.”

The report said it appears South Asian immigrant parents emphasize educating their second-generation daughters out of the need to uphold the image of a “model minority,” as hardworking, disciplined and successful, as well as the desire to restrict the girls’ social engagements outside of the home in order to limit western influence and improve marriageability.

“Studies in India have shown that higher maternal education is either not associated with son-biased sex ratios or that it is associated with greater knowledge of and access to sex-selective technology,” the report said.

“This situation among second-generation mothers certainly exemplifies a ‘double burden’ whereby women are educated and work outside the home but are also expected to maintain their traditional roles within the family.”

Both Wanigaratne and Bhangu hope the study can get the community to start a dialogue about gender equity and culture.

Source: Preference for boys persists among 2nd generation South Asian parents, study finds

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: