2006–2010

Maternal Longevity and the Sex of Offspring in Pre-Industrial Sweden

Reprint No. 2007:25

Author(s): David Cesarini, Erik Lindqvist and Björn WallaceYear: 2007 Title: Annals of Human Biology Volume (No.): 34 (5) Pages: 535–546


Background: Helle et al. (2000. Sons reduced maternal longevity in preindustrial humans. Science, 296, 1085) argued that giving birth to sons reduced maternal longevity in pre-industrial societies due to higher physiological costs of bearing sons and the elevated testosterone levels observed in mothers carrying male foetuses.
Aim: The present study examined this hypothesis using a more comprehensive dataset and evaluated the merits of the statistical approach used in previous studies to identify the cost of giving birth to sons in terms of maternal old-age longevity.
Subjects and methods: The analysis in Helle et al. (2002. Sons reduced maternal longevity in preindustrial humans. Science 296, 1085) was extended by using a considerably larger dataset of preindustrial Swedish women, and with careful consideration paid to methodological problems of sample selection and omitted variable bias. We argue that the previous literature has underestimated the difficulties in quantifying the trade-off between parity and longevity due to unobserved heterogeneity in health. However, under less restrictive assumptions, one can estimate the marginal impact of a son for a fixed family size.
Results: No evidence was found of a negative relative impact of sons. Neither was any evidence found in favour of the male-biased intra-household resource competition hypothesis proposed elsewhere in the literature, despite the poverty of the study population. These results are robust to a wide range of specifications tested.
Conclusion: The failure to reproduce earlier findings and the fact that studies in this area of research seem to continue to yield conflicting results warrant much caution in discussing and evaluating results. It is likely that the negative effect of sons, if it existed, only manifested itself under conditions that are not yet fully understood. We also argue that the previous literature on this topic has not fully acknowledged the inference problems associated with omitted variable bias and sample selection.


Reference:
Cesarini, David, Erik Lindqvist and Björn Wallace (2007), "Maternal Longevity and the Sex of Offspring in Pre-Industrial Sweden". Annals of Human Biology 34(5), 535–546.

Erik Lindqvist

Contact

Ph: +46 8 736 9252
Mob: +46 73 150 4011
erik.lindqvist@hhs.se

An Agenda for Europe

Institutional Reform for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Omslag 2017 Institutional Reform for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.jpg

The authors of this book, Niklas Elert, Magnus Henrekson and Mikael Stenkula, advise the economies of the European Union to become more entrepreneurial in promoting innovation and economic growth. The authors propose a reform strategy with respect to several aspects to achieve this goal.

Events

Seminars organized by IFN

 

To present ongoing research informal brown-bag seminars are held on Mondays at 11:30 am. This is an opportunity for IFN researchers to test ideas and results.

Academically oriented seminars are most of the time held on Wednesdays at 10 am. At these events researchers from IFN and other institutions present their research.

In addition, IFN organizes seminars open to the public. Topics for these are derived from the IFN research.

Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se