Son Preference in a Sharecropping Society

Gender Composition of Children and Reproduction in a Pre-Transitional Italian Community
By Matteo Manfredini, Marco Breschi, Alessio Fornasin

Sex preference, and its association with fertility, has been frequently, if not exclusively, studied for transitional and post-transitional populations. Many studies have concerned Asian countries, where patriarchal families and gender discrimination were common cultural traits favouring preference for sons. Conversely, little attention has been paid to pretransitional populations, where it was believed that couples’ sex preferences were met because of their larger average completed family size. However, the pretransitional Italian sharecropping society shares the same cultural features as some contemporary Asian societies, such as patriarchal families, strong gender inequality, and a rigid gender division of work within the household that led to sons being valued over daughters. This article investigates the relationship between sex composition of surviving children and fertility in a sharecropping population of mid-nineteenth-century Tuscany. The analysis is based on the longitudinal reproductive life-histories of the women living in Casalguidi between 1819 and 1859.


  • sex preference
  • fertility
  • Italy
  • nineteenth century
  • event history analysis
  • historical demography
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