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Where there is a will: Fertility behavior and sex bias in large families

  • Jain, Tarun

Boys and girls in India experience large dierences in survival and health outcomes. For example, the 2001 Census reports that the sex ratio for children under six years of age is 927 girls per thousand boys, an outcome that has been attributed to differences in parents’ behavior towards their sons and daughters. Most studies rely primarily on cultural factors or biases in economic returns to explain these differences. In this paper, I propose an explanation where bequest motives drive fertility behavior that generates sex-based differences in outcomes even when parents do not explicitly prefer boys over girls. In India’s patrilocal rural society, women do not inherit property and heads of joint families aim to retain assets within the family lineage for future generations. I hypothesize that this leads heads to bequeath more land to claimants with more sons, in turn generating a race for sons among adult brothers seeking to maximize their inheritance of agricultural land. I confirm this theoretical prediction using panel data from rural households in India. This strategic fertility behavior implies that girls have systematically more siblings compared to boys, and hence receive smaller shares of household resources, offering an explanation for sex-based dierences in outcomes.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 16835.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:16835
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  1. Das Gupta, Monica, 1999. "Lifeboat ethics versus corporate ethics - social and demographic implications of stem and joint families," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2127, The World Bank.
  2. Maristella Botticini & Aloysius Siow, 2003. "Why Dowries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1385-1398, September.
  3. Seema Jayachandran & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2009. "Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less Than Boys? Evidence and Implications for Child Health in India," Working Papers id:2041, eSocialSciences.
  4. Deininger, Klaus & Jin, Songqing & Nagarajan, Hari K., 2009. "Determinants and Consequences of Land Sales Market Participation: Panel Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 410-421, February.
  5. Lata Gangadharan & Pushkar Maitra, 2003. "Testing for Son Preference in South Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 12(3), pages 371-416, September.
  6. Fred Arnold & Sunita Kishor & T. K. Roy, 2002. "Sex-Selective Abortions in India," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 759-785.
  7. Bhargava, Alok, 2003. "Family planning, gender differences and infant mortality: evidence from Uttar Pradesh, India," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 225-240, January.
  8. Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2002. "Household Division and Rural Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 839-869.
  9. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1985. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1045-76, December.
  10. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1992. "Collective Labor Supply and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 437-67, June.
  11. T. Schultz, 1972. "Retrospective evidence of a decline of fertility and child mortality in Bangladesh," Demography, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 415-430, August.
  12. Mearns, Robin, 1999. "Access to land in rural India - policy issues and options," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2123, The World Bank.
  13. Das Gupta, Monica, 1999. "Lifeboat versus corporate ethic: social and demographic implications of stem and joint families," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 173-184, July.
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