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Preference for son sees gradual dip, but still an important factor

Nearly 65 percent of currently married women in the age group of 15-49 with two daughters and no sons do not want any more children as compared with 91 percent with two sons and no daughters.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: May 9, 2022 7:39:16 am
The pattern is similar for men according to the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) report released recently. (Representational)

Preference for a son may have seen a gradual decline, but continues to be an important factor in overall fertility preference in the country.

Nearly 65 percent of currently married women in the age group of 15-49 with two daughters and no sons do not want any more children as compared with 91 percent with two sons and no daughters. The pattern is similar for men according to the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) report released recently.

“Among the two-child families, those who have two sons, 91percent do not desire for additional child and those who have one son, 89% think so. Among those who do not have a son in two-child families, 65% wish to stop. The respective percentages during NFHS-4 were 89, 87 and 63. So the increase in the percentages in NFHS-5 are in sync with the fertility transition,” said Dr Anjali Radkar, Professor at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics.

“This does indicate a marginal decline in son preference if comparisons are made with NFHS-4. However, this gradual decline was expected considering that total fertility rate for India has reached 2.0. In NFHS-4, the TFR was 2.2 and so it was an expected decline,” Dr Radkar told The Indian Express.

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Of the 6,94,605 women in the NFHS-4 survey, at least 19 percent had a desire for more sons than daughters vis-a-vis 15 percent of 7,14,776 women in the NFHS-5 survey. Again in the NFHS-4 survey, at least 82.3 percent wanted at least one son while in the NFHS-5 survey, nearly 81 percent want one son at least.

Meanwhile, nearly one in four (23%) currently married women (15-49) want to have another child. Nearly 12 percent of women want to have a child soon and 10 percent want to wait at least two years before having another child. Most other women want to limit childbearing – which is 32 percent — want no more children and 38 percent are sterilized, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the desire of women not to have any more children is relatively low in the northeast states except Tripura, Sikkim and Assam, in Bihar (66%) in the East, Goa (60%) in the West, Ladakh (48%) and Jammu & Kashmir (52%) in the North, and Kerala (64%) in the South. Among the Union territories, Lakshadweep has the lowest percentage of women (40%) desiring no more children.

The proportion of currently married women who do not want any more children increases with age. Only 25 percent of currently married women in the age group (15-24) want no more children, compared with 66 percent in the age group 25-34 years and 89 percent in the age group of 35-49. Nearly 72 percent of Sikh and 71 percent of Hindu currently married women aged 15-49 want no more children, compared with 64 percent of Muslim currently married women.

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