If Americans could have only one child, they would prefer that it be a boy rather than a girl, by a 40% to 28% margin, with the rest having no preference or no opinion on the matter. These attitudes are remarkably similar to what Gallup measured in 1941, when Americans preferred a boy to a girl by a 38% to 24% margin.
The attitudes of American men drive the overall preference for a boy; in the current poll, conducted June 9-12, men favor a boy over a girl by a 49% to 22% margin. American women do not have a proportionate preference for girls. Instead, women show essentially no preference either way: 31% say they would prefer a boy and 33% would prefer a girl.
The real-world implications of gender-preference attitudes in some countries around the world are profound. A recent review article in the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out that the preference for boys over girls is beginning to tilt the gender balance worldwide, a demographic shift that will have major consequences in the decades ahead.
The potential impact of attitudes about the preferred gender of one's child has increased in recent years because various techniques for prenatal sex selection have become more widely available - including ways of detecting the gender of a fetus early in the gestation process, and the increasing technological ability to select the sex of a child using in vitro and artificial insemination procedures.
The degree to which Americans deliberately attempt to select the gender of their children is unclear. It is significant that 18- to 29-year-old Americans are the most likely of any age group to express a preference for a boy because most babies are born to younger adults.
The impact of the differences between men and women in preferences for the sex of their babies is also potentially important. The data from the U.S. suggest that if it were up to mothers to decide the gender of their children, there would be no tilt toward boys. Potential fathers have a clear preference for boys if given a choice, but the precise amount of input males may have into a deliberate gender-selection process is unknown.