The Puzzle of Muslim Advantage in Child Survival in India

CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2009-13

57 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2009  

Sonia R. Bhalotra

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Christine Valente

University of Nottingham

Arthur van Soest

Tilburg University; Netspar; RAND Corporation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 17, 2009

Abstract

The socio-economic status of Indian Muslims is, on average, considerably lower than that of upper caste Hindus. Muslims have higher fertility and shorter birth spacing and are a minority group that, it has been argued, have poorer access to public goods. They nevertheless exhibit substantially higher child survival rates, and have done for decades. This paper documents and analyses this seeming puzzle. The religion gap in survival is much larger than the gender gap but, in contrast to the gender gap, it has not received much political or academic attention. A decomposition of the survival differential reveals that some compositional effects favour Muslims but that, overall, differences in characteristics between the communities and especially the Muslim deficit in parental education predict a Hindu advantage. Alternative outcomes and specifications support our finding of a Muslim fixed effect that favours survival. The results of this study contribute to a recent literature that debates the importance of socioeconomic status (SES) in determining health and survival. They augment a growing literature on the role of religion or culture as encapsulating important unobservable behaviours or endowments that influence health, indeed, enough to reverse the SES gradient that is commonly observed.

Keywords: religion, caste, gender, child survival, anthropometrics, Hindu, Muslim, India

JEL Classification: O12, I12, J15, J16, J18

Suggested Citation

Bhalotra, Sonia R. and Valente, Christine and van Soest, Arthur, The Puzzle of Muslim Advantage in Child Survival in India (February 17, 2009). CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2009-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1344951 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1344951

Sonia R. Bhalotra (Contact Author)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Christine Valente

University of Nottingham ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

Arthur H. O. van Soest

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC 5000 LE
Netherlands

Netspar

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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