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

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  • Rubiana Chamarbagwala

    (Department of Economics, Indiana University)

  • Martin Ranger

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

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, is 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.

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File URL: http://www.bus.indiana.edu/riharbau/RePEc/iuk/wpaper/bepp2006-05-chamarbagwala-ranger.pdf
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Paper provided by Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2006-05.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2006-05

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  1. Monica Das Gupta, 2005. "Explaining Asia's "Missing Women": A New Look at the Data," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 31(3), pages 529-535.
  2. Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli & Claudia Olivetti, 2002. "Marrying Your Mom: Preference Transmission and Women's Labor and Education Choices," NBER Working Papers 9234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Sajal Lahiri & Sharmistha Self, 2007. "Gender Bias in Education: the Role of Inter-household Externality, Dowry and other Social Institutions," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(4), pages 591-606, November.
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