Bad news for boys: Researchers say parents prefer daughters if times get tough

Economic recessions subconsciously lead parents to prefer girls to boys

Entertainment Desk July 01, 2015
Economic recessions subconsciously lead parents to prefer girls to boys. PHOTO: DAILYMAIL

In tough economic times, parents financially favour daughters over sons, according to researchers at the Carlson School of Management and Rutgers Business School, reported DailyMail. 

The Carlson School of Management and Rutgers Business School study, found participants preferred to enroll a daughter rather than a son in beneficial programs. They found the trend even extends to daughters getting a bigger share of the will.

Economic recessions subconsciously lead parents to prefer girls to boys. They say that in times of economic crisis, parents favour daughters over sons.

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"Almost all parents say that they don't favour one of their children over another, but economic recessions subconsciously lead parents to prefer girls over boys," said Rutgers professor of marketing Kristina Durante.

In one experiment, 629 participants read a news article that described the economy as either improving, getting worse, or neutral.

They then were asked to make a will dividing their assets between an imaginary son and daughter as well as assign one to a beneficial program.

Those led to believe tough economic times were ahead, allocated nearly 60 per cent of their available resources to the girl compared to a nearly 50/50 split between the two children when economic conditions were viewed as either neutral or prosperous.

'These findings in humans align well with the behavior of other animals,' adds Professor Vladas Griskevicius of the Carlson School.

"When resources are scarce parents prefer females because they have a larger reproductive payoff. Almost every female child will produce some offspring, but many male children end up having zero offspring."

Another experiment in the paper explored the boundaries of age on resources allocation.

As expected, the bias toward females was stronger as the children moved closer to reproductive age.

They also discovered that when the economy was struggling, the ratio of spending on girls versus boys increased 19.8 percent compared to when the economy was faring well.

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"As the GDP decreased, relative spending on girls versus boys increased," said Associate Professor Joseph Redden of the Carlson School.

By being aware that they can unwittingly bias their spending toward specific children, parents can more carefully track specific spending to maintain equity.

"When we survey parents, it's very clear they want to treat their children equally," says Redden.

"But if they're relying on feelings for how they're allocating resources, it's very likely this bias is seeping in, especially when times are tougher and they don't have money to do everything," added Redden.

For companies, recognizing the consumer bias towards girls in difficult economic times could allow them to better optimize manufacturing, sales, and marketing efforts.