India's Missing Women: Disentangling Cultural, Political and Economic Variables
The severe anti-female bias in natality and child mortality that gives rise to India's missing women has been widely documented and various explanations ranging from agricultural labor demand to dowries have been offered in the literature. In general, the low demand for girls has been interpreted as a rational response to economic constraints. This paper shows the importance of culture both in determining the value of girls and in shaping parental economic constraints. We find that conservative cultural attitudes, proxied by the electoral success of religious parties, are positively correlated with anti-female bias. Moreover, higher household expenditure is negatively correlated with the number of girls. This suggests that we cannot rely on rising income levels, brought about by economic growth, to improve the demographic disadvantage faced by Indian women. Our policy recommendations therefore focus on changing attitudes of son-preference that motivate anti-female bias as much as enforcement of gender-equality legislation.
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- Fernández, Raquel & Fogli, Alessandra & Olivetti, Claudia, 2002.
"Marrying Your Mom: Preference Transmission and Women's Labour and Education Choices,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
3592, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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- Sajal Lahiri & Sharmistha Self, 2007. "Gender Bias in Education: the Role of Inter-household Externality, Dowry and other Social Institutions," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(4), pages 591-606, November.
- Monica Das Gupta, 2005. "Explaining Asia's "Missing Women": A New Look at the Data," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 31(3), pages 529-535.
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