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Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats Evenly?Health Investments and Gender Inequality in India


  • Emily Oster



Gender inequality in South Asia is an important policy issue; gender imbalances in mortality have been of particular concern. Policy makers often argue that increasing the level of development and access to health care are crucial to addressing this inequality. This paper analyzes the relationship between access to child health investments and gender inequality in those investments in India. The ¯rst part of the paper explores the proximate causes of the gender imbalance in mortality in India. I ¯nd that a large share of the gender imbalance (about 30%) can be explained by differential access to vaccination. The second part of the paper estimates the effect of changes in access to vaccination on gender inequality. I argue that the direction of these effects is not obvious. A simple model of (gender-biased) parental investments, and empirical work using variation in access to vaccination, both suggest that initial increases in vaccination availability from low levels will increase gender inequality; further increases will then decrease inequality. This non-monotonic pattern is also reflected in differences in mortality. This result may shed light on the contrast between the cross-sectional and time series evidence on gender and development. For other related papers:

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  • Emily Oster, 2006. "Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats Evenly?Health Investments and Gender Inequality in India," Working Papers id:435, eSocialSciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:ess:wpaper:id:435
    Note: Working Papers

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lupin Rahman & Vijayendra Rao, 2004. "The Determinants of Gender Equity in India: Examining Dyson and Moore's Thesis with New Data," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(2), pages 239-268.
    2. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1982. "Market Opportunities, Genetic Endowments, and Intrafamily Resource Distribution: Child Survival in Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 803-815, September.
    3. Borooah, Vani K., 2004. "Gender bias among children in India in their diet and immunisation against disease," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(9), pages 1719-1731, May.
    4. Paula Griffiths & Zoë Matthews & Andrew Hinde, 2000. "Understanding the sex ratio in India: A simulation approach," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(4), pages 477-488, November.
    5. Ali, Mohammad & Emch, Michael & Tofail, Fahmida & Baqui, Abdullah H., 2001. "Implications of health care provision on acute lower respiratory infection mortality in Bangladeshi children," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 267-277, January.
    6. 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.
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