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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

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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:oup:qjecon:v:126:y:2011:i:3:p:1485-1538
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjr029
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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