Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #154

Why Are More Boys Born During War? Evidence from Germany at Mid Century

by Dirk Bethmann and Michael Kvasnicka

RWI, 11/2009, 12 S./p., 8 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86788-174-6



In belligerent countries, male-to-female sex ratios at birth increased during and shortly after the two world wars. These rises still defy explanation. Several causes have been suggested (but not tested) in the literature. Many of these causes are proximate in nature, reflecting behavioral responses to the dramatically changed marriage market conditions for women and men that were induced by war-related declines in adult sex ratios. Based on county-level census data for the German state of Bavaria in the vicinity and aftermath of World War II, we explore the reduced-form relationship between changes in adult and off spring sex ratios. Our results suggest that war-induced shortfalls of men significantly increased the percentage of boys among newborns.

Keywords: World War II; adult sex ratio; sex ratio at birth