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Why Are Indian Children So Short?

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  • Jayachandran, Seema
  • Pande, Rohini

Abstract

India's child stunting rate is among the highest in the world, exceeding that of many poorer African countries. In this paper, we analyze data for over 174,000 Indian and Sub-Saharan African children to show that Indian firstborns are taller than African firstborns; the Indian height disadvantage emerges with the second child and then increases with birth order. This pattern persists when we compare height between siblings, and also holds for health inputs such as vaccinations. Three patterns in the data indicate that India's culture of eldest son preference plays a key role in explaining the steeper birth order gradient among Indian children and, consequently, the overall height deficit. First, the Indian firstborn height advantage only exists for sons. Second, an Indian son with an older sibling is taller than his African counterpart if and only if he is the eldest son. Third, the India-Africa height deficit is largest for daughters with no older brothers, which reflects that fact that their families are those most likely to exceed their desired fertility in order to have a son.

Suggested Citation

  • Jayachandran, Seema & Pande, Rohini, 2015. "Why Are Indian Children So Short?," CEPR Discussion Papers 10503, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10503
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard Akresh, 2009. "Flexibility of Household Structure: Child Fostering Decisions in Burkina Faso," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
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    3. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2011. "Older and Wiser? Birth Order and IQ of Young Men," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 57(1), pages 103-120, March.
    4. Gary S. Becker & H. Gregg Lewis, 1974. "Interaction between Quantity and Quality of Children," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 81-90, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. Behrman, Jere R., 1988. "Nutrition, health, birth order and seasonality : Intrahousehold allocation among children in rural India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 43-62, February.
    7. Bhalotra, Sonia & Valente, Christine & van Soest, Arthur, 2010. "The puzzle of Muslim advantage in child survival in India," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 191-204, March.
    8. Dean Spears, 2012. "How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain?," Working Papers 1438, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    9. Shelley Clark, 2000. "Son preference and sex composition of children: Evidence from india," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 95-108, February.
    10. 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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    1. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:25:y:2017:i:c:p:99-111 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Aaronson, Daniel & Dehejia, Rajeev & Jordon, Andrew & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Samii, Cyrus & Schultze, Karl, 2017. "The Effect of Fertility on Mothers’ Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries," MPRA Paper 76768, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:25:y:2017:i:c:p:65-84 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:wdevel:v:104:y:2018:i:c:p:344-357 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Matthias Rieger & Sofia Karina Trommlerová, 2016. "Age-Specific Correlates of Child Growth," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(1), pages 241-267, February.
    6. Leslie Root & Jennifer Johnson-Hanks†, 2016. "Gender, Honor, and Aggregate Fertility," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 75(4), pages 904-928, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    development; economic growth; height; malnutrition; microeconomics;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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