Economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes in the New York Times:
This [Google search] methodology can also be used to study gender preference before birth. Every year, Americans make hundreds of thousands of searches asking how to conceive a child of a particular sex. In searches with the words “how to conceive,” Americans are slightly more likely to include the word “boy” than “girl.” Among the subset of Americans Googling for specific gender conception strategies, there is about a 10 percent preference for boys compared with girls.
This boy preference is surprising for two reasons. First, the top websites returned for these queries are overwhelmingly geared toward women, suggesting that women are most often making gender conception searches. Yet in surveys, women express a slight preference for having girls, not boys; men say they prefer sons. Second, many Americans are willing to admit a gender preference to even out a family. About 5 percent more boys are born than girls in the United States, so evening out a family would more often require having a girl, not a boy. Are men searching for conception advice in large numbers? Are women searching on their husbands’ behalf? Or do some American women have a son preference that they are not comfortable admitting to surveys?
Other countries exhibit very large preferences in favor of boys. In India, for each search asking how to conceive a girl, there are three-and-a-half asking how to conceive a boy. With such an overwhelming preference for boys, it is not surprising that there are millions fewer women in India than population scientists would predict.
Clearly there is more to learn.
Here’s something more that wouldn’t be hard to learn: just looking at this graph above, it’s pretty obvious that the small male preference in Google searches in America for information about how to conceive a son is being driven by Asians in the United States, especially South Asians (the same is likely true of Canada). In contrast, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand have more searches for how to conceive girls.
For collateral evidence, just do a Google search on “sex-selective abortions.”
Because this data make it easy to compare different countries over time, for example, we might examine whether these gender preferences change after a woman is elected to run a country.
Last year, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank tut-tutted at a white Republican Congressman for noticing. Milbank wrote:
Republicans long ago lost African American voters. They are well on their way to losing Latinos. And if Trent Franks prevails, they may lose Asian Americans, too.
The Arizona Republican’s latest antiabortion salvo to be taken up by the House had a benign name — the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act — and a premise with which just about everybody agrees: that a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.
The problem with Franks’s proposal is that it’s not entirely clear there is a problem. Sex-selection abortion is a huge tragedy in parts of Asia, but to the extent it’s happening in this country, it’s mostly among Asian immigrants. …
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Franks didn’t dispute that Asian Americans would be targeted. “The real target in the Asian community here is the Asian women who are being coerced into aborting little girls,” he told me, adding: “When the left doesn’t want to make abortion the issue, they say you’re being against minorities.”
Franks is a principled and consistent opponent of abortion, but his strategy has raised eyebrows before because of its racial component.