Gender selection? Most Americans just aren't interested.
Even if choosing your baby's sex were as easy as taking a pink or blue
pill, most Americans would prefer to leave it up to chance, according
to a new study.
One of the main concerns usually mentioned by opponents of
preconception gender selection is the possibility of upsetting the
birth ratio -- usually under the assumption that since boys are
preferred, too few girls would be born. This is the current
situation in China and India, where a cultural bias for sons is so
strong that the birth of a daughter is always considered "bad news".
The study's authors point out that whether widely available gender
selection could cause a sex ratio imbalance in the US "cannot be
answered by intuition, but only by evidence," which is now provided in
a survey of nearly 1,200 Americans. Here are the survey results (paraphrased by me).
If you could choose the gender of your first child, what would you choose?
39% Boy, 19% Girl, 42% Don't Care
This question shows a strong preference for a son as the first born. Because some studies on birth order have shown firstborns are higher-achieving (more likely to go to college than siblings, for example), some opponents of gender selection have argued that this preference could result in a "nation of little sisters".
However, although the survey results show this preference to be widespread, we don't know whether it is a mild or a strong preference. Is the desire for a firstborn son strong enough to result in the use of assisted gender selection, or is it merely strong enough to affect a survey response? Is it a passionate wish or simply a pleasant image of a big brother watching out for little sister?
As we'll see in following questions, even though Americans may express a gender preference, few are willing to take any action to fulfill that preference.
If you would like to have more than one child, what would you like your children's gender to be?
50% Equal boys and girls
5% Boys only
7% More boys than girls
4% Girls only
6% More girls than boys
27% No preference
Half want the same number of girls and boys, while nearly 1/4
preferred one gender over the other. But those with a preference were
almost evenly split in preferring a boy or a girl, with 12% wanting
only boys or more boys, and 10% preferring only girls or more girls.
Overall, 73% did express a preference for their children's gender,
but again, few of them would be willing
to interfere with nature to fulfill that preference.
Would you be willing to use artificial insemination to choose your
baby's sex, if it cost $2,500 per attempt and 3 to 5 attempts would be
8% Yes, 73% No, 18% Unsure
The majority would be unwilling to choose their baby's gender if it
involved going to a fertility center, and undergoing 3 to 5 cycles of
artificial insemination at a cost of $2,500 per attempt.
Only 8% were willing to use gender selection under these conditions.
Although this is an excellent question for survey purposes, it probably
paints a far too optimistic picture of the true state of gender
selection technology, because it implies that you're guaranteed
the gender of your choice if you're willing to spend a maximum $7,500
on 5 attempts. The truth is, it's likely to cost far more and there's
no guarantee you'll get pregnant -- and there's still a chance of
having the opposite gender in the end.
Would you be willing to use artificial insemination to choose your baby's sex, if it required only one procedure in your doctor's office and was covered by your health insurance?
12% Yes, 64% No, 24% Undecided
Even if gender selection involved only one doctor's visit, only 12% would be willing to take advantage of it. This seems to indicate that for most people, the unwillingness to use assisted medical gender selection is not due to its cost or inconvenience.
If you could choose your baby's sex by taking a pink pill or a blue pill, would you?
18% Yes, 59% No, 22% Undecided
And finally, even if gender selection required virtually no effort at all, only 18% would be willing to take any action to interfere with nature to ensure the gender of their choice, with the majority preferring to leave it up to chance.
The conclusion? Even if there were a gender selection clinic on every corner in the US, most Americans prefer to leave their baby's gender up to chance. And of those who would like to choose, about half would choose a boy and half would choose a girl. There seems to be little threat to the US sex ratio as the result of assisted gender selection.