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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.

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  • 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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    2. ManMohan S. Sodhi & Christopher S. Tang, 2016. "Supply chain opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid," DECISION: Official Journal of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Springer;Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, vol. 43(2), pages 125-134, June.
    3. Aaronson, Daniel & Dehejia, Rajeev & Jordan, Andrew & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Samii, Cyrus & Schulze, Karl, 2017. "The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries," IZA Discussion Papers 10559, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Himaz, Rozana, 2018. "Stunting later in childhood and outcomes as a young adult: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 344-357.
    5. Basedau, Matthias & Gobien, Simone & Prediger, Sebastian, 2017. "The Ambivalent Role of Religion for Sustainable Development: A Review of the Empirical Evidence," GIGA Working Papers 297, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    6. 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.
    7. Yuvraj Pathak & Karen Macours, 2017. "Women’s Political Reservation, Early Childhood Development, and Learning in India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(4), pages 741-766.
    8. G. Naline & Brinda Viswanathan, 2017. "Predictors of Age-Specific Childhood Mortality in India," Working Papers 2017-167, Madras School of Economics,Chennai,India.
    9. Aurino, Elisabetta, 2017. "Do boys eat better than girls in India? Longitudinal evidence on dietary diversity and food consumption disparities among children and adolescents," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 99-111.
    10. González, Libertad, 2018. "Sex selection and health at birth among Indian immigrants," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 64-75.
    11. Alacevich, Caterina & Tarozzi, Alessandro, 2017. "Child height and intergenerational transmission of health: Evidence from ethnic Indians in England," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 65-84.
    12. Sunita Taneja & Temsunaro Rongsen-Chandola & Sanjana Brahmawar Mohan & Sarmila Mazumder & Nita Bhandari & Jasmine Kaur & Nikita Arya & Ranadip Chowdhury & Jose Carlos Martines & Rajiv Bahl & M K Bhan, 2018. "Mid upper arm circumference as a predictor of risk of mortality in children in a low resource setting in India," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(6), pages 1-10, June.
    13. 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.
    14. Elsa Valli, 2017. "Essays on social protection," Economics PhD Theses 1017, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
    15. Elizabeth Brainerd & Nidhiya Menon, 2015. "Religion and Health in Early Childhood: Evidence from South Asia," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 41(3), pages 439-463, September.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    development; economic growth; height; malnutrition; microeconomics;
    All these keywords.

    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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