India's Missing Women: Disentangling Cultural, Political and Economic Variables
34 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2006
Date Written: December 6, 2006
The severe anti-female bias in natality and child mortality that gives rise to India's missing women has been widely documented and various explanations ranging from agricultural labor demand to dowries have been offered in the literature. In general, the low demand for girls has been interpreted as a rational response to economic constraints. This paper shows the importance of culture both in determining the value of girls and in shaping parental economic constraints. We find that conservative cultural attitudes, proxied by the electoral success of religious parties, are positively correlated with anti-female bias. Moreover, higher household expenditure is negatively correlated with the number of girls. This suggests that we cannot rely on rising income levels, brought about by economic growth, to improve the demographic disadvantage faced by Indian women. Our policy recommendations therefore focus on changing attitudes of son-preference that motivate anti-female bias as much as enforcement of gender-equality legislation.
Keywords: Female Disadvantage, Mortality, Son Preference, India
JEL Classification: J11, J16, O12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation