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Explaining Asia's "Missing Women": A New Look at the Data

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  • Monica Das Gupta

Abstract

The fact that millions of females are "missing" in East Asia and South Asia has been attributed to cultural factors that support strong son preference in these countries. A widely disseminated paper by Emily Oster argues that a large part of this phenomenon can be attributed to excessively masculine sex ratios at birth resulting from maternal infection with hepatitis B. If her thesis is true, current policies to address this problem would need to be reframed to include biological factors in addition to cultural factors. The data show, however, that whether or not females "go missing" is determined by the existing sex composition of the family into which they are conceived. Girls with no older sisters have similar chances of survival as boys. However, girls conceived in families that already have a daughter experience steeply higher probabilities of being aborted or of dying in early childhood. This indicates that cultural factors still provide the overwhelming explanation for the "missing" females. Copyright 2005 The Population Council, Inc..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by The Population Council, Inc. in its journal Population and Development Review.

Volume (Year): 31 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 529-535

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Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:31:y:2005:i:3:p:529-535

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Cited by:
  1. Das Gupta, Monica, 2008. "Does Hepatitis B infection or son preference explain the bulk of gender imbalance in China ? : a review of the evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4502, The World Bank.
  2. Nandi, Arindam & Deolalikar, Anil B., 2013. "Does a legal ban on sex-selective abortions improve child sex ratios? Evidence from a policy change in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 216-228.
  3. World Bank, 2011. "Work and Family : Latin American and Caribbean Women in Search of a New Balance," World Bank Other Operational Studies 12489, The World Bank.
  4. Hongbin Li & Junjian Yi & Junsen Zhang, 2011. "Estimating the Effect of the One-Child Policy on the Sex Ratio Imbalance in China: Identification Based on the Difference-in-Differences," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 1535-1557, November.
  5. Sylvestre Gaudin, 2011. "Son Preference in Indian Families: Absolute Versus Relative Wealth Effects," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 343-370, February.
  6. Edlund, Lena & Li, Hongbin & Yi, Junjian & Zhang, Junsen, 2007. "Sex Ratios and Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 3214, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Seo-Young Cho, 2011. "Integrating Equality - Globalization, Women’s Rights, Son Preference and Human Trafficking," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 73, Courant Research Centre PEG.
  8. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "The Competitive Saving Motive: Evidence from Rising Sex Ratios and Savings Rates in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(3), pages 511 - 564.
  9. Arokiasamy Perianayagam & Srinivas Goli, 2012. "Provisional results of the 2011 Census of India: Slowdown in growth, ascent in literacy, but more missing girls," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 39(10), pages 785-801, August.
  10. Deepankar Basu, 2009. "Son Preference, Sex Selection and the Problem of Missing Women in India," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2009-06, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  11. Vani S. Kulkarni & Manoj Pandey & Raghav Gaiha, 2013. "MDGs and gender inequality," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 18813, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  12. Stephan Klasen, 2008. "Missing Women: Some Recent Controversies on Levels and Trends in Gender Bias in Mortality," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 168, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
  13. Rubiana Chamarbagwala & Martin Ranger, 2006. "India's Missing Women: Disentangling Cultural, Political and Economic Variables," Caepr Working Papers 2006-021, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  14. Li, Hongbin & Yi, Junjian & Zhang, Junsen, 2010. "Estimating the Effect of the One-Child Policy on Sex Ratio Imbalance in China: Identification Based on the Difference-in-Differences," IZA Discussion Papers 5149, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People’s Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 16800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Mu, Ren & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Why does the Great Chinese Famine affect the male and female survivors differently? Mortality selection versus son preference," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 92-105, January.
  17. Dirk Bethmann & Michael Kvasnicka, 2011. "War, Marriage Markets And The Sex Ratio At Birth," FEMM Working Papers 110023, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
  18. Abay Asfaw & Francesca Lamanna & Stephan Klasen, 2010. "Gender gap in parents' financing strategy for hospitalization of their children: evidence from India," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(3), pages 265-279.
  19. Donald Cox, 2007. "Biological Basics and the Economics of the Family," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 91-108, Spring.
  20. Arup Maharatna, 2009. "Can ‘Beautiful’ Be ‘Backward’? India’s Tribes in a Long-Term Demographic Perspective," Working Papers id:2191, eSocialSciences.
  21. Emily Oster & Gang Chen, 2008. "Hepatitis B Does Not Explain Male-Biased Sex Ratios in China," NBER Working Papers 13971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Oster, Emily & Chen, Gang & Yu, Xinsen & Lin, Wenyao, 2010. "Hepatitis B does not explain male-biased sex ratios in China," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 142-144, May.
  23. Abay Asfaw & Stephan Klasen & Francesca Lamanna, 2008. "Intrahousehold Health Care Financing Strategy and the Gender Gap: Empirical Evidence from India," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 177, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.

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