Tackling Daughter Deficits in Tamil Nadu, India
A well-known demographic feature in several East and South Asian countries is the continuing decline in the proportion of girls to boys. In India, till recently, the skewed sex ratio was treated as a Northern and Western Indian phenomenon. However, analysis of the 2001 Census shows that some of the districts with the most unbalanced sex ratios lie in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. Notwithstanding its recent addition to the list of states exhibiting daughter deficit, the state has pioneered initiatives to prevent daughter elimination and to measure daughter deficit. The availability of district-level panel data on infant mortality and sex ratio at birth covering the years 1996-1999 and 2003, periods which may be characterized by sharp differences in programs and initiatives to reduce daughter elimination combined with spatial variation in these programs, provides an unusual opportunity to identify the causal effect of interventions on both, pre- and post-birth daughter deficit. We find evidence of daughter deficit in at least half the state’s districts with a majority of the deficit (60 to 70 percent) occurring before birth, potentially due to sex selective abortion as compared to after birth due to female infanticide and neglect. The temporal analysis over the period 1996-1999 and 2003, shows a 46 percent decline in post-birth deficit, without a corresponding increase in pre-birth deficit. Our difference-in-differences estimates suggest that at least 79 percent of the decline in post-birth deficit may be attributed to the set of policy interventions pursued by the state and civil society actors.
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