Women's Inheritance Rights Reform and the Preference for Sons in India

58 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2018 Last revised: 16 Apr 2023

See all articles by Sonia R. Bhalotra

Sonia R. Bhalotra

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Rachel Brulé

Boston University

Sanchari Roy

King’s College London


We investigate whether legislation of equal inheritance rights for women modifies the historic preference for sons in India, and find that it exacerbates it. Children born after the reform in families with a first-born daughter are 3.8-4.3 percentage points less likely to be girls, indicating that the reform encouraged female foeticide. We also find that the reform increased excess female infant mortality and son-biased fertility stopping. This suggests that the inheritance reform raised the costs of having daughters, consistent with which we document an increase in stated son preference in fertility post-reform. We conclude that this is a case where legal reform was frustrated by persistence of cultural norms. We provide some suggestive evidence of slowly changing patrilocality norms.

Keywords: sex selection, female foeticide, inheritance rights, ultrasound, son preference, gender, India

JEL Classification: O12, K11, I21

Suggested Citation

Bhalotra, Sonia R. and Brulé, Rachel and Roy, Sanchari, Women's Inheritance Rights Reform and the Preference for Sons in India. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11239, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3097357 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3097357

Sonia R. Bhalotra (Contact Author)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Rachel Brulé

Boston University ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://rachelbrule.com/

Sanchari Roy

King’s College London ( email )

London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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