Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less Than Boys? Evidence and Implications for Child Health in India
Medical research indicates that breastfeeding suppresses post-natal fertility. We model the implications for breastfeeding decisions and test the model's predictions using survey data from India. First, we find that breastfeeding increases with birth order, since mothers near or beyond their desired total fertility are more likely to make use of the contraceptive properties of nursing. Second, given a preference for having sons, mothers with no or few sons want to conceive again and thus limit their breastfeeding. We indeed find that daughters are weaned sooner than sons, and, moreover, for both sons and daughters, having few or no older brothers results in earlier weaning. Third, these gender effects peak as mothers approach their target family size, when their decision about future childbearing (and therefore breastfeeding) is highly marginal and most sensitive to considerations such as ideal sex composition. Because breastfeeding protects against water- and food-borne disease, our model also makes predictions regarding health outcomes. We find that child-mortality patterns mirror those of breastfeeding with respect to gender and its interactions with birth order and ideal family size. Our results suggest that the gender gap in breastfeeding explains 14 percent of excess female child mortality in India, or about 22,000 "missing girls" each year.
|Date of creation:||Jun 2009|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ.|
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820
|Order Information:|| Email: |
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Rohini Pande, 2003. "Selective gender differences in childhood nutrition and immunization in rural India: The role of siblings," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(3), pages 395-418, August.
- Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976.
"Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S143-62, August.
- Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1976. "Child Endowments, and the Quantity and Quality of Children," NBER Working Papers 0123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
- Jeffrey Rous, 2001. "Is breast-feeding a substitute for contraception in family planning?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(4), pages 497-512, November.
- Emily Oster, 2006.
"Does Increased Access Increase Equality? Gender and Child Health Investments in India,"
NBER Working Papers
12743, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Oster, Emily, 2009. "Does increased access increase equality? Gender and child health investments in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 62-76, May.
- 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.
- Robert Retherford & Minja Choe & Shyam Thapa & Bhakta Gubhaju, 1989. "To what extent does breastfeeding explain Birth-interval effects on early childhood mortality?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 26(3), pages 439-450, August.
- Kazuo Yamaguchi, 1989. "A formal theory for male-preferring stopping rules of childbearing: sex differences in birth order and in the number of siblings," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 26(3), pages 451-465, August.
- Pritchett, Lant H. & DEC, 1994. "Desired fertility and the impact of population policies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1273, The World Bank.
- Fred Arnold & Sunita Kishor & T. K. Roy, 2002. "Sex-Selective Abortions in India," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 759-785.
- Narayan Das, 1987. "Sex preference and fertility behavior: A study of recent Indian data," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 24(4), pages 517-530, November.
- 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.
- Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "Testing the Quantity-Quality Fertility Model: The Use of Twins as a Natural Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 227-40, January.
This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7321. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.