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

  • Seema Jayachandran
  • Ilyana Kuziemko

Breastfeeding is negatively correlated with future fertility because nursing temporarily reduces fecundity and because mothers usually wean on becoming pregnant again. We model breastfeeding under son-biased fertility preferences and show that breastfeeding duration increases with birth order, especially near target family size; is lowest for daughters and children without older brothers because their parents try again for a son; and exhibits the largest gender gap near target family size, when gender is most predictive of subsequent fertility. Data from India confirm each prediction. Moreover, child survival exhibits similar patterns, especially in settings where the alternatives to breastmilk are unsanitary. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 126 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 1485-1538

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:126:y:2011:i:3:p:1485-1538
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  1. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "Testing the Quantity-Quality Fertility Model: The Use of Twins as a Natural Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 227-40, January.
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  8. Shelley Clark, 2000. "Son preference and sex composition of children: Evidence from india," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 95-108, February.
  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. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S143-62, August.
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  12. Jeffrey Rous, 2001. "Is breast-feeding a substitute for contraception in family planning?," Demography, Springer, vol. 38(4), pages 497-512, November.
  13. Robert Retherford & Minja Choe & Shyam Thapa & Bhakta Gubhaju, 1989. "To what extent does breastfeeding explain Birth-interval effects on early childhood mortality?," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 439-450, August.
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