More Women Missing, Fewer Girls Dying: The Impact of Abortion on Sex Ratios at Birth and Excess Female Mortality in Taiwan
Many countries with "deficits" in their female population see banning sex-selective abortion as a way to curb the observed sex imbalance without discussing potentially negative unintended consequences of this ban on female survival rates as parents may be forced to substitute post-natal for pre-natal sex-selection. This paper presents novel empirical evidence on the impact of access to abortion on sex ratios at birth and relative female infant mortality. We use the universe of birth and death registry data from Taiwan and exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the availability of sex-selective abortion caused by the legalization of abortions to identify the causal effects of sex-selective abortion on sex ratios at birth and excess female mortality. We find that sex-selective abortion increased the fraction of males at birth by approximately 0.7 percentage-points, accounting for approximately 100% of the observed increase in sex ratios at birth during the 1980s; and it decreased relative female neo-natal mortality by approximately 25%. We estimate that approximately 15 more female infants survived for every 100 aborted female fetuses.
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