IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women

  • Emily Oster


In many Asian countries the ratio of male to female population is higher than in the West -- as high as 1.07 in China and India, and even higher in Pakistan. A number of authors (most notably Sen, 1992) have suggested that this imbalance reflects excess female mortality and, as a result, have argued that as many as 100 million women are "missing". This paper proposes an explanation for some of the observed over-representation of males: the hepatitis B virus. I present new evidence, consistent with an existing scientific literature, that carriers of the hepatitis B virus have offspring sex ratios around 1.50 boys for each girl. This evidence includes both cross-country analyses and a natural experiment based on recent vaccination campagins. Hepatitis B is common in many Asian countries, especially China, where some 10 to 15 per cent of the population is infected. Using data on viral prevalence by country as well as estimates of the effect of hepatitis on sex ratio, I argue that hepatitis B can account for about 45 per cent of the "missing women": around 75 per cent in China, between 20 per cent and 50 per cent in Bangladesh, Egypt, and West Asia, and under 20 per cent in India, Pakistan and Nepal. [A revised version will be published in the Journal of Political Economy (, December 2005. ]

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by eSocialSciences in its series Working Papers with number id:266.

in new window

Date of creation: Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ess:wpaper:id:266
Note: Working Papers
Contact details of provider: Web page:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women (JPE 2005) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ess:wpaper:id:266. 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: (Padma Prakash)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.