DP18014 Sex-Selective Abortions and Instrumental Births as the two faces of the Stopping Rule. New measures and world evidence
The stopping rule refers to a behaviour by which parents continue child bearing till they reach a specific number of children of a given gender (boys, in general). Under this behaviour, parents can choose to carry out these pregnancies to term and raise a larger number of children than originally desired. Some of these children are therefore not desired for their own sake, and can be defined as `instrumental'. When additional births become too costly, parents can also resort to sex-selective abortion by terminating pregnancies of the undesired gender. We argue that these two practices are the two complementary expressions of the stopping rule and ought to be considered under a unified framework.
In this paper, we take the child as the unit of interest and propose new measures of detection of these two practices. With instrumental births, a girl is, on average, exposed to a larger number of younger siblings than a boy. Under sex-selective abortion, a boy has on average more sisters among her elder siblings than a girl. These measures are easily implementable, precise, and do not rely on a natural sex ratio. We carry out our detection tests over a large set of countries and quantify, for the countries identified by our tests, the magnitude of gender bias in parental preferences. We highlight, in particular, the minor role played by sex-selective abortion as compared to instrumental births in fertility behaviour.