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Does Increased Access Increase Equality? Gender and Child Health Investments in India

  • Emily Oster

Policymakers often argue that increasing access to health care is one crucial avenue for decreasing gender inequality in the developing world. Although this is generally true in the cross section, time series evidence does not always point to the same conclusion. This paper analyzes the relationship between access to child health investments and gender inequality in those health investments in India. A simple theory of gender-biased parental investment suggests that gender inequality may actually be non-monotonically related to access to health investments. At low levels of availability, investment in girls and boys is low but equal; as availability increases, boys get investments first, creating inequality. As availability increases further, girls also receive investments and equality is restored. I test this theory using data on the relationship between gender balance in vaccinations and the availability of "Health Camps" in India. I find support for a non-monotonic relationship. This result may shed light on the contrast between the cross-sectional and time-series evidence on gender and development, and may provide guidance for health policy in developing countries.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12743.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12743.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Publication status: published as Oster, Emily. "Does Increased Access Increase Equality? Gender and Child Health Investments in India." Journal of Development Economics 89, 1 (May 2009): 62-76.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12743
Note: LS HC
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