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Prenatal Sex Selection and Girls’ Well‐Being: Evidence from India


  • Luojia Hu
  • Analía Schlosser


In this paper, we study the impact of prenatal sex selection on the well-being of girls by analyzing changes in children's nutritional status and mortality during the years since the diffusion of prenatal sex determination technologies in India. We further examine various channels through which prenatal sex selection might affect girls’ outcomes. Using repeated cross-sections from a rich survey dataset, we show that high sex ratios at birth reflect the practice of sex selective abortion. We then exploit the large regional and time variations in the incidence of prenatal sex selection to analyze whether changes in girls' outcomes relative to boys within states and over time are associated with changes in sex ratios at birth. We find that an increase in the practice of prenatal sex selection appears to be associated with a reduction in the incidence of malnutrition among girls. The negative association is stronger for girls born in rural households and at higher birth parities. An examination of the various mechanisms linking between prenatal sex selection and children outcomes suggests that prenatal sex selection does not lead to a selection of girls into better endowed families, but there is some evidence of a larger reduction in family size for girls relative to boys. We also find an increase in girls' breastfeeding duration suggesting an improvement in parental care and treatment. On the other hand, prenatal sex selection does not appear to be associated with a reduction in excess female child mortality, or a reduction in son preference.
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  • Luojia Hu & Analía Schlosser, 2015. "Prenatal Sex Selection and Girls’ Well‐Being: Evidence from India," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(587), pages 1227-1261, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:econjl:v:125:y:2015:i:587:p:1227-1261

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ming-Jen Lin & Nancy Qian & Jin-Tan Liu, 2008. "More Women Missing, Fewer Girls Dying: The Impact of Abortion on Sex Ratios at Birth and Excess Female Mortality in Taiwan," NBER Working Papers 14541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Silvia Helena Barcellos & Leandro S. Carvalho & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2014. "Child Gender and Parental Investments in India: Are Boys and Girls Treated Differently?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 157-189, January.
    3. Siwan Anderson, 2003. "Why Dowry Payments Declined with Modernization in Europe but Are Rising in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(2), pages 269-310, April.
    4. Sonia Bhalotra & Tom Cochrane, 2010. "Where have all the young girls gone? Identification of sex selection in India," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 10/254, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    5. George Simmons & Celeste Smucker & Stan Bernstein & Eric Jensen, 1982. "Post-neonatal mortality in Rural India: Implications of an economic model," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 19(3), pages 371-389, August.
    6. Tarozzi, Alessandro, 2008. "Growth reference charts and the nutritional status of Indian children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 455-468, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Prashant Bharadwaj & Leah K. Lakdawala, 2013. "Discrimination Begins in the Womb: Evidence of Sex-Selective Prenatal Investments," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 71-113.
    2. Farre, Lidia, 2013. "The role of men in the economic and social development of women : implications for gender equality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6323, The World Bank.
    3. Milazzo, Annamaria, 2014. "Why are adult women missing ? son preference and maternal survival in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6802, The World Bank.
    4. Alexander Stimpfle & David Stadelmann, 2016. "Does Central Europe Import the Missing Women Phenomenon?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2016-04, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    5. Adriana D. Kugler & Santosh Kumar, 2017. "Preference for Boys, Family Size, and Educational Attainment in India," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(3), pages 835-859, June.
    6. Moshe HAZAN & Hosny ZOABI, 2015. "Sons or Daughters? Sex Preferences and the Reversal of the Gender Educational Gap," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(2), pages 179-201, June.
    7. Chew, Soo Hong & Yi, Junjian & Zhang, Junsen & Zhong, Songfa, 2017. "Risk Aversion and Son Preference: Experimental Evidence from Chinese Twin Parents," IZA Discussion Papers 10519, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Hazan, Moshe & Zoabi, Hosny, 2012. "Sons or Daughters? Endogenous Sex Preferences and the Reversal of the Gender Educational Gap," CEPR Discussion Papers 8885, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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