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The Puzzle of Muslim Advantage in Child Survival in India

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  • Bhalotra, Sonia R.

    () (University of Essex)

  • Valente, Christine

    () (University of Bristol)

  • van Soest, Arthur

    () (Tilburg University)

Abstract

The socio-economic status of Indian Muslims is, on average, considerably lower than that of upper caste Hindus. Muslims have higher fertility and shorter birth spacing and are a minority group that, it has been argued, have poorer access to public goods. They nevertheless exhibit substantially higher child survival rates, and have done for decades. This paper documents and analyses this seeming puzzle. The religion gap in survival is much larger than the gender gap but, in contrast to the gender gap, it has not received much political or academic attention. A decomposition of the survival differential reveals that some compositional effects favour Muslims but that, overall, differences in characteristics between the communities and especially the Muslim deficit in parental education predict a Hindu advantage. Alternative outcomes and specifications support our finding of a Muslim fixed effect that favours survival. The results of this study contribute to a recent literature that debates the importance of socioeconomic status (SES) in determining health and survival. They augment a growing literature on the role of religion or culture as encapsulating important unobservable behaviours or endowments that influence health, indeed, enough to reverse the SES gradient that is commonly observed.

Suggested Citation

  • Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Valente, Christine & van Soest, Arthur, 2009. "The Puzzle of Muslim Advantage in Child Survival in India," IZA Discussion Papers 4009, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4009
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    Cited by:

    1. Anurag N. Banerjee & Nilanjan Banik & Ashvika Dalmia, 2017. "Demand for household sanitation in India using NFHS-3 data," Empirical Economics, Springer, pages 307-327.
    2. Menon, Nidhiya & McQueeney, Kathleen, 2015. "Christianity and Infant Health in India," IZA Discussion Papers 9177, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Marine de Talancé, 2016. "Wealth inequalities in perceptions of school quality in Pakistan," Working Papers DT/2016/14, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    4. Aoife Brick & Anne Nolan, 2014. "Maternal Country of Birth Differences in Breastfeeding at Hospital Discharge in Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 45(4), pages 455-484.
    5. John R. Bowen, 2017. "Gender, Islam, and law," Working Papers id:11970, eSocialSciences.
    6. Saha, U.R., 2012. "Econometric models of child mortality dynamics in rural Bangladesh," Other publications TiSEM f734b639-9696-480e-96f0-8, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    7. Brinda Viswanathan, 2014. "Variations in Women’s Heights across Social and Religious Groups Among Indian States," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 119(2), pages 1149-1169, November.
    8. Marco Alfano, 2017. "Islamic Law and Investments in Children: Evidence from the Sharia Introduction in Nigeria," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1701, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    9. Jayachandran, Seema & Pande, Rohini, 2015. "Why Are Indian Children So Short," Working Paper Series rwp15-016, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Bhalotra, Sonia & Clots-Figueras, Irma & Cassan, Guilhem & Iyer, Lakshmi, 2014. "Religion, politician identity and development outcomes: Evidence from India," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, pages 4-17.
    11. Christopoulou, Rebekka & Lillard, Dean R., 2015. "Is smoking behavior culturally determined? Evidence from British immigrants," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 78-90.
    12. Michael Geruso & Dean Spears, 2015. "Neighborhood Sanitation and Infant Mortality," NBER Working Papers 21184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. van Soest, A.H.O. & Saha, U.R., 2012. "Does Family Planning Reduce Infant Mortality? Evidence from Surveillance Data in Matlab, Bangladesh," Discussion Paper 2012-019, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    14. Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Chakravarty, Abhishek & Gulesci, Selim, 2016. "The Price of Gold: Dowry and Death in India," IZA Discussion Papers 9679, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. van Soest, A.H.O. & Saha, U.R., 2012. "Birth Spacing, Child Survival and Fertility Decisions : Analysis of Causal Mechanismsa," Discussion Paper 2012-018, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    16. Sonia Bhalotra & Abhishek Chakravarty & Dilip Mookherjee & Francisco J. Pino, "undated". "Property Rights and Gender Bias: Evidence from Land Reform in West Bengal," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-281, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    17. Mahadevan, Renuka & Suardi, Sandy, 2013. "Is there a role for caste and religion in food security policy? A look at rural India," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 58-69.
    18. John R. Bowen, 2017. "Gender, Islam, and law," WIDER Working Paper Series 152, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    19. Marine De Talance, 2017. "Wealth Inequalities in Perceptions of School Quality in Pakistan," Working Papers hal-01662698, HAL.
    20. Nie, Peng & Rammohan, Anu & Gwozdz, Wencke & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso, 2016. "Developments in Undernutrition in Indian Children Under Five: A Decompositional Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 9893, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. Andreea Mitrut & François-Charles Wolff, 2014. "Investing in children’s education: are Muslim immigrants different?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 27(4), pages 999-1022, October.
    22. Nik Stoop & Marijke Verpoorten & Koen Deconinck, 2017. "Voodoo, Vaccines and Bed Nets," LICOS Discussion Papers 39417, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    India; gender; Hindu; religion; anthropometrics; Muslim; child survival; caste;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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