India's Missing Women: Disentangling Cultural, Political and Economic Variables

34 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2006  

Rubiana M. Chamarbagwala

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Economics

Martin Ranger

University of Bonn - Institute of Economic Theory II

Date Written: December 6, 2006

Abstract

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

Chamarbagwala, Rubiana M. and Ranger, Martin, India's Missing Women: Disentangling Cultural, Political and Economic Variables (December 6, 2006). CAEPR Working Paper No. 2006-021. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=949888 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.949888

Rubiana M. Chamarbagwala (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Economics ( email )

Wylie Hall
Bloomington, IN 47405-6620
United States

Martin Ranger

University of Bonn - Institute of Economic Theory II ( email )

Lennestrasse 37
53113 Bonn
Germany

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