This paper considers whether sex composition of existing children in Australian families is an important factor in parity progression. Using census data from 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2001, women are linked with their co-resident children, allowing investigation of family sex composition and its changing impact over time on the propensity to have another child. The study finds that parents are much more likely to have a third and fourth birth if existing children are all of the same sex, indicating a strong preference for children of both sexes. This increased propensity has added around three per cent to the fertility of recent cohorts. The paper concludes with a discussion of the potential impact of sex-selection technologies on fertility. The authors argue that future widespread use of reliable sex-selection technologies might act to increase fertility in the short term, but would lead to a long-term reduction in fertility.
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