Does intra-household discrimination account for the bulk of India's 'missing women'?

Amaresh Dubey, Arjan Verschoor

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Are adverse sex ratios in India largely due to intra-household discrimination of females? Received wisdom holds that the answer is ‘yes’. We have two reasons to doubt this. First, we show that poverty is associated with better, not worse, sex ratios in India. Second, we quantify the number of missing women in India due to its actual sex ratio at birth and find that it is considerably larger than the number due to excess postnatal female mortality. We estimate that between 25 and 40 per cent of missing women as conventionally computed is due to excess postnatal female mortality. Our findings taken together suggest that the masculinity of the birth ratio is positively associated with socio-economic status. Factors that may account for this association include parental lifestyle and disease, a higher incidence of sex-selective abortions among richer groups, and a sex-neutral reduction in foetal wastage as maternal well-being improves. None of these factors reflect female discrimination within the household, and ‘missing women’ is, therefore, potentially seriously biased as an indicator of the lethal consequences of intra-household discrimination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of South Asian Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007

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