Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Jesse Anttila-Hughes


This study examines the impact of cultural gender norms created by differences in traditional agricultural practices on observed sex ratios at birth over last four decades. Building on the plough hypothesis developed by Ester Boserup and the work of Alesina et al. (2013), this study provides a further empirical test of the legacy of the plough. I perform empirical analysis on micro level data from the Demographic and Health Survey in over 75 countries to develop a number of stylized facts on this relationship. Descendants of plough societies exhibit a more male skewed sex ratio at birth today. These descendants exhibit a highly male-skewed sex ratio of last birth, which is achieved through son-based fertility stopping preferences. From the 1980s onward the expected sex ratio at birth of plough descendants becomes highly male skewed at lower levels of total fertility, providing evidence that these descendants realize their son preference through sex selective abortions.