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Health and the Political Agency of Women

  • Sonia Bhalotra
  • Irma Clots-Figueras

    ()

We investigate whether women’s political representation in state legislatures improves public provision of antenatal and early childhood health services in the districts from which they are elected, arguing that the costs of poor services in this domain are disproportionately borne by women. Using several large representative samples of data from India and accounting for potential endogeneity of politician gender and the sample composition of births, we find that a 10 percentage point increase in women’s political representation results in a 2.1 percentage point reduction in neonatal mortality, an outcome that is closely tied to investments in maternal health. Importantly, we are able to probe the underlying mechanisms. We find that politician gender exerts an impact on both the health infrastructure and the information and encouragement that recent studies suggest is important in determining the demand for public health services. Not only are more public health facilities built under women but there is an increase in antenatal care visits, institutional delivery and breastfeeding. Our findings contribute evidence in favour of women’s political representation as an under-utilised tool for addressing infectious disease and death in developing countries.

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Paper provided by University of Essex, Department of Economics in its series Economics Discussion Papers with number 739.

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Date of creation: 13 Nov 2013
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Handle: RePEc:esx:essedp:739
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