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Why Are Indian Children So Short?

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  • Seema Jayachandran
  • Rohini Pande

Abstract

India's child stunting rate is among the highest in the world, exceeding that of many poorer African countries. In this paper, we analyze data for over 174,000 Indian and Sub-Saharan African children to show that Indian firstborns are taller than African firstborns; the Indian height disadvantage emerges with the second child and then increases with birth order. This pattern persists when we compare height between siblings, and also holds for health inputs such as vaccinations. Three patterns in the data indicate that India's culture of eldest son preference plays a key role in explaining the steeper birth order gradient among Indian children and, consequently, the overall height deficit. First, the Indian firstborn height advantage only exists for sons. Second, an Indian son with an older sibling is taller than his African counterpart if and only if he is the eldest son. Third, the India-Africa height deficit is largest for daughters with no older brothers, which reflects that fact that their families are those most likely to exceed their desired fertility in order to have a son.

Suggested Citation

  • Seema Jayachandran & Rohini Pande, 2015. "Why Are Indian Children So Short?," NBER Working Papers 21036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21036
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    Cited by:

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    2. Himaz, Rozana, 2018. "Stunting later in childhood and outcomes as a young adult: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 344-357.
    3. Matthias Rieger & Sofia Karina Trommlerová, 2016. "Age-Specific Correlates of Child Growth," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(1), pages 241-267, February.
    4. Aurino, Elisabetta, 2017. "Do boys eat better than girls in India? Longitudinal evidence on dietary diversity and food consumption disparities among children and adolescents," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 99-111.
    5. Alacevich, Caterina & Tarozzi, Alessandro, 2017. "Child height and intergenerational transmission of health: Evidence from ethnic Indians in England," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 65-84.
    6. Leslie Root & Jennifer Johnson-Hanks†, 2016. "Gender, Honor, and Aggregate Fertility," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 75(4), pages 904-928, September.
    7. Elsa Valli, 2017. "Essays on social protection," Economics PhD Theses 1017, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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