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Exploring the Causal Machinery behind Sex Ratios at Birth: Does Hepatitis B Play a Role?

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  • Amar Hamoudi

Abstract

The causal machinery underlying sex determination is directly relevant to many questions relating gender and family composition to social and economic outcomes. In recent work, Oster highlighted a correlation between parental hepatitis B carrier status and sex of the child. One of her analyses went further, speaking directly to causality. That analysis appeared to have answered an important question that had remained unresolved in medical and biological literatures-namely, does chronic infection with hepatitis B cause male-skewed sex ratios at birth? Oster's creative empirical analysis appeared to suggest that it does; however, in this article I reassess the result and present evidence that, at the very least, the question remains open. Further investigation into questions around the causal machinery of sex determination is warranted in the social science literature, as well as in that of biology and medicine. However, my results suggest that it is extremely unlikely that chronic hepatitis B infection plays a biologically significant role. (c) 2010 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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  • Amar Hamoudi, 2010. "Exploring the Causal Machinery behind Sex Ratios at Birth: Does Hepatitis B Play a Role?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(1), pages 1-21, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:v:59:y:2010:i:1:p:1-21
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Monica Das Gupta, 2008. "Can Biological Factors Like Hepatitis B Explain the Bulk of Gender Imbalance in China? A Review of the Evidence," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 23(2), pages 201-217, May.
    2. Ming-Jen Lin & Ming-Ching Luoh, 2008. "Can Hepatitis B Mothers Account for the Number of Missing Women? Evidence from Three Million Newborns in Taiwan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 2259-2273, December.
    3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    4. Karen Norberg, 2004. "Partnership Status and the Human Sex Ratio at Birth," NBER Working Papers 10920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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