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Sex Differentials in Childhood Feeding, Health Care, and Nutritional Status in India

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  • Vinod Mishra
  • T. K. Roy
  • Robert D. Retherford

Abstract

Strong preference for sons in South Asia is well documented, but evidence on female disadvantage in childhood feeding, health care, and nutritional status is inconclusive. This article examines sex differentials in indicators of childhood feeding, health care, and nutritional status of children under age 3 by birth order and sex composition of older living siblings. Data are from India's 1992-93 and 1998-99 National Family Health Surveys. The analysis finds three reasons for inconclusive evidence on female disadvantage in aggregate analyses. First, discrimination against girls is limited to the relatively small fraction of children of certain birth orders and sex compositions of older siblings. Second, discrimination against girls when boys are in short supply and discrimination against boys when girls are in short supply cancel each other to some extent. Third, some discrimination against girls (e.g., in exclusive breastfeeding at 6-9 months) is nutritionally beneficial to girls. Separate analyses for North and South India find that gender discrimination is as common in the South as in the North, where son preference is generally much stronger. Copyright 2004 The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Vinod Mishra & T. K. Roy & Robert D. Retherford, 2004. "Sex Differentials in Childhood Feeding, Health Care, and Nutritional Status in India," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(2), pages 269-295.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:30:y:2004:i:2:p:269-295
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1995:85:7:965-969_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Fred Arnold & Sunita Kishor & T. K. Roy, 2002. "Sex-Selective Abortions in India," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 759-785.
    3. Rohini Pande, 2003. "Selective gender differences in childhood nutrition and immunization in rural India: The role of siblings," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(3), pages 395-418, August.
    4. Narayan Das, 1987. "Sex preference and fertility behavior: A study of recent Indian data," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 24(4), pages 517-530, November.
    5. Shelley Clark, 2000. "Son preference and sex composition of children: Evidence from india," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 95-108, February.
    6. Koenig, Michael A. & D'Souza, Stan, 1986. "Sex differences in childhood mortality in rural Bangladesh," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 15-22, January.
    7. Alain Marcoux, 2002. "Sex Differentials in Undernutrition: A Look at Survey Evidence," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(2), pages 275-284.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ashish Singh, 2011. "Inequality of Opportunity in Indian Children: The Case of Immunization and Nutrition," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 30(6), pages 861-883, December.
    2. Jinkook Lee & Regina A. Shih & Kevin Carter Feeney & Kenneth M Langa, 2011. "Cognitive Health of Older Indians Individual and Geographic Determinants of Female Disadvantage," Working Papers WR-889, RAND Corporation.
    3. Ilke Onur & Malathi Velamuri, 2016. "A Life Course Perspective on Gender Differences in Cognitive Functioning in India," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(4), pages 520-563.
    4. 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.
    5. Choi, Jin Young & Lee, Sang-Hyop, 2006. "Does prenatal care increase access to child immunization? Gender bias among children in India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 107-117, July.
    6. repec:eee:joecag:v:4:y:2014:i:c:p:26-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Datar, Ashlesha & Liu, Jenny & Linnemayr, Sebastian & Stecher, Chad, 2013. "The impact of natural disasters on child health and investments in rural India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 83-91.
    8. 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.
    9. Singh, Prashant Kumar & Parasuraman, Sulabha, 2014. "‘Looking beyond the male–female dichotomy’ – Sibling composition and child immunization in India, 1992–2006," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 145-153.
    10. Robert Jensen & Emily Oster, 2009. "The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1057-1094.
    11. Scott South & Katherine Trent & Sunita Bose, 2014. "Skewed Sex Ratios and Criminal Victimization in India," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(3), pages 1019-1040, June.
    12. Pathak, Praveen Kumar & Singh, Abhishek, 2011. "Trends in malnutrition among children in India: Growing inequalities across different economic groups," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(4), pages 576-585, August.
    13. Keera Allendorf, 2012. "Like daughter, like son? Fertility decline and the transformation of gender systems in the family," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 27(16), pages 429-454, October.
    14. repec:spr:soinre:v:133:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1380-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:spr:jopoec:v:31:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0668-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Pulver, Ariel & Ramraj, Chantel & Ray, Joel G. & O'Campo, Patricia & Urquia, Marcelo L., 2016. "A scoping review of female disadvantage in health care use among very young children of immigrant families," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 50-60.

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