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Does increased access increase equality? Gender and child health investments in India

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  • Oster, Emily

Abstract

Increases in access to social services are often thought to decrease inequality in the level of these services between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. This is an issue in the developing world, where policy-makers often argue that increasing the level of health care, for example, will decrease gender inequality. However, increases in access to services often have empirically ambiguous effects on inequality, increasing it in some cases and decreasing it in others. This paper argues that this is not surprising, and simple economic theory suggests that we should expect a non-monotonic relationship between access and inequality. At low levels of access to investments, there is no investment for either the advantaged or disadvantaged group, producing equality. Increases in access increase investment for the advantaged group first, generating inequality. Further increases in access increase investment in the disadvantaged group, decreasing inequality. I test the predictions of this theory using data on the availability of health camps (or distance to health centers) and gender differences in vaccinations in India. I find strong support for a non-monotonic relationship between access and gender equality.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:89:y:2009:i:1:p:62-76
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    1. Stephan Klasen & Simon Lange, 2011. "Getting Progress Right: Measuring Progress Towards the MDGs Against Historical Trends," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 87, Courant Research Centre PEG, revised 20 Feb 2012.
    2. Bratti, Massimiliano & Mendola, Mariapia, 2014. "Parental health and child schooling," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 94-108.
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    7. Emara, Noha & Chiu, I-Ming, 2015. "The Impact of Governance on Economic Growth: The case of Middle Eastern and North African Countries," MPRA Paper 68603, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Emla Fitzsimons & Bansi Malde, 2014. "Empirically probing the quantity–quality model," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 27(1), pages 33-68, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Health investments Social services Health care;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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