Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

Gender by chance or choice

Last October I posted an entry mentioning that parents, even in modern America, have a slight preference for boys. Well, it turns out that is only true for biological children.

The U.S. Census Bureau has a special report comparing the ratio of boys to girls, for adopted, biological and stepchildren.

The ratio of girls to boys for biological children is 100 to 105. While I was aware for the slight preference for boys, I’m surprised the ratio is not more even because I never thought biological parents had much control over the situation. But, here is the stunner: The ratio of girls to boys for adopted children is 100 to 89. It is even starker a ratio if you consider only International adoptions (where there no re-adoption of biological step-children): the ratio is 100 girls for every 56 boys.

It is not because of the availability of foreign girls: it turns out that most adoptive parents, unlike prospective biological parents, want girls. And adoptive parents have the power to choose gender. An article in Slate by a fellow adoptive parent tries to analyze the bias.

He conjectures that husbands want to procreate and wives want to nuture, and with the procreation “bath water” tossed out, it is the nuturing wives who take the lead in the adoption process and they are the ones who want girls.

While it is true, at least from the adoptive parents I personally know, that is almost always is the wife who takes the lead, I think it is a little bit of a stretch to assume that 1) Women think girls are more nuture-able, and 2) Husbands have no say in this step of the adoption process.

Remember that study that indicated that slight parental desire for boys (regardless of whether they were adopted)? I cannot see how an adoptive mother would feel that much different that biological mother when it comes to gender and nuturing. I mean, that can’t explain why the adoptive/biological ratios are that out of whack.

And for the record, my wife did consult me all three times when selecting a preferred gender. (Personally I prefered a girls because I figured I, as a pretty geeky dad, would be better at teaching piano than football.)

Here is my theory. One of the major differences between adoption and biological parenthood (other than stretch marks) is that the child exists prior to being part of the family. Yeah, that is obvious, but follow me here.

Most adoptive parents believe this is entirely the wrong way to look at it, but at least some [pre-]adoptive parents believe, perhaps only subconsciously, they are rescuing a child from a life more difficult that it should be. Perhaps girls are more rescue-able. Little damsels in distress as it were. All parents want to nuture, but only adoptive parents feel they might rescue. This is especially true for internation adoptions. This might explain the gender imbalance.

Another theory? A perception that more girls are available. I, for one, did not know that is was not true for Cambodia. Perhaps there is a simple desire, after years of trying biologically, to go for the presumed expediency. The wait for girls is assumed to be shorter.

I don’t recall my agency allowing me to select first available: I’ll take three non-smoking girls, please.

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