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Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less Than Boys? Evidence and Implications for Child Health in India

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  • Seema Jayachandran
  • Ilyana Kuziemko

Abstract

Medical research indicates that breastfeeding suppresses post-natal fertility. We model the implications for breastfeeding decisions and test the model's predictions using survey data from India. First, we find that breastfeeding increases with birth order, since mothers near or beyond their desired total fertility are more likely to make use of the contraceptive properties of nursing. Second, given a preference for having sons, mothers with no or few sons want to conceive again and thus limit their breastfeeding. We indeed find that daughters are weaned sooner than sons, and, moreover, for both sons and daughters, having few or no older brothers results in earlier weaning. Third, these gender effects peak as mothers approach their target family size, when their decision about future childbearing (and therefore breastfeeding) is highly marginal and most sensitive to considerations such as ideal sex composition. Because breastfeeding protects against water- and food-borne disease, our model also makes predictions regarding health outcomes. We find that child-mortality patterns mirror those of breastfeeding with respect to gender and its interactions with birth order and ideal family size. Our results suggest that the gender gap in breastfeeding explains 14 percent of excess female child mortality in India, or about 22,000 "missing girls" each year.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15041.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: published as Seema Jayachandran & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2011. "Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less than Boys? Evidence and Implications for Child Health in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1485-1538.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15041

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  2. Oster, Emily, 2009. "Does increased access increase equality? Gender and child health investments in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 62-76, May.
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  7. Ansley J. Coale, 1960. "Introduction to "Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries"," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 3-15 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Emily Oster, 2006. "Does Increased Access Increase Equality? Gender and Child Health Investments in India," NBER Working Papers 12743, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Narayan Das, 1987. "Sex preference and fertility behavior: A study of recent Indian data," Demography, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 517-530, November.
  10. Pritchett, Lant H. & DEC, 1994. "Desired fertility and the impact of population policies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1273, The World Bank.
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  13. Behrman, Jere R., 1988. "Nutrition, health, birth order and seasonality : Intrahousehold allocation among children in rural India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 43-62, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Ichino, Andrea & Lindström, Elly-Anne & Viviano, Eliana, 2011. "Hidden consequences of a first-born boy for mothers," Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies 2011:9, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  2. Michael Baker & Kevin Milligan, 2013. "Boy-Girl Differences in Parental Time Investments: Evidence from Three Countries," NBER Working Papers 18893, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Silvia H. Barcellos & Leandro Carvalho & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2012. "Child Gender And Parental Investments In India: Are Boys And Girls Treated Differently?," NBER Working Papers 17781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Arimoto, Yutaka & Ito, Seiro & Kudo, Yuya & Tsukada, Kazunari, 2013. "Stigma, Social Relationship and HIV Testing in the Workplace: Evidence from South Africa," CEI Working Paper Series 2012-06, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  5. Florencia Lopez Boo & Maria E. Canon, 2012. "Richer but more unequal? nutrition and caste gaps," Working Papers 2012-051, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  6. S. Anukriti, 2013. "The Fertility-Sex Ratio Tradeoff: Unintended Consequences of Financial Incentives," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 827, Boston College Department of Economics.
  7. Zimmermann, Laura, 2012. "It's a Boy! Women and Non-Monetary Benefits from a Son in India," IZA Discussion Papers 6847, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Abhishek Chakravarty, 2012. "Gender-discriminatory premarital investments, fertility preferences and breastfeeding in Egypt," Economics Discussion Papers 723, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  9. Jain, Tarun, 2009. "Where there is a will: Fertility behavior and sex bias in large families," MPRA Paper 16835, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Emla Fitzsimons & Marcos Vera-Hernandez, 2013. "Food for Thought? Breastfeeding and Child Development," IFS Working Papers W13/31, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  11. Novella, Rafael, 2013. "Parental education, gender preferences and child nutritional status: evidence from four developing countries," ISER Working Paper Series 2013-06, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  12. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00948098 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Scott Fulford, 2013. "The changing geography of gender in India," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 833, Boston College Department of Economics.
  14. Milazzo, Annamaria, 2014. "Why are adult women missing ? son preference and maternal survival in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6802, The World Bank.
  15. Adeline Delavande & Basit Zafar, 2013. "Gender discrimination and social identity: experimental evidence from urban Pakistan," Staff Reports 593, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  16. Sylvie Lambert & Pauline Rossi, 2014. "Sons as Widowhood Insurance: Evidence from Senegal," PSE Working Papers halshs-00948098, HAL.
  17. Silvia Helena Barcellos & Leandro Carvalho & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2010. "Child Gender and Parental Investments in India: Are Boys and Girls Treated Differently?," Working Papers 756, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  18. Zimmermann, Laura, 2012. "Remember When It Rained: The Elusiveness of Gender Discrimination in Indian School Enrollment," IZA Discussion Papers 6833, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Chaudhuri, Sanjukta, 2013. "A Life Course Model of Human Rights Realization, Female Empowerment, and Gender Inequality in India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 55-70.

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