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In the Pursuit of Sons: Additional Births or Sex-Selective Abortion in Pakistan?


Zaidi, Batool & Morgan, S. Philip (2016). In the Pursuit of Sons: Additional Births or Sex-Selective Abortion in Pakistan?. Population and Development Review, 42(4), 693-710. PMCID: PMC5382870


When "the total number of children couples desire falls more rapidly than the total number of desired sons” (Das Gupta and Bhat 1997), the pursuit of sons intensifies. Despite declining family size and persistent gender inequality, there are few Muslim countries among those with elevated sex ratios (providing unambiguous evidence of sex-selective abortions). In part, this may reflect the strict ban on abortion services in most of these countries, supported by Islamic restrictions/taboos against abortion. Pakistan, with its high abortion rate (albeit, illegal still) and strong cultural history shared with north India (which has some of the highest sex ratios in the world), could be a Muslim exception. Are Pakistani couples responding to the tension between lower fertility and the desire for sons in ways similar to the country’s Indian and Chinese neighbors? If so, then Pakistan will experience high sex ratios, leading to a marriage squeeze and possibly other social problems (Dyson 2012; Guilmoto 2011; Hesketh and Xing 2006).


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Population and Development Review


Zaidi, Batool
Morgan, S. Philip