Ridhi Kashyap , University of Oxford
Julia Behrman, Northwestern University
Son preference has been linked to excess female under-five mortality in India and considerable literature explores whether parents invest more resources in sons relative to daughters-- which we refer to as explicit discrimination-- leading to girls’ poorer health status and consequently, higher mortality. However, this literature does not adequately control for the implicit discrimination processes that sort girls into different types of families (e.g. larger) and at earlier parities. To better address the endogeneity associated with implicit discrimination processes, we explore the association between child sex and post-neonatal under-five mortality using a sample of mixed-sex twins from four waves of the Indian National Family Health Survey. Mixed-sex twins provide a natural experiment that exogenously assigns a boy and a girl to families at the same time, thus controlling for selectivity into having an unwanted female child. We document a sizeable impact of explicit discrimination on girls’ excess mortality in India, particularly compared to a placebo analysis in Africa where girls have a survival advantage. We also show that explicit discrimination has weakened over subsequent birth cohorts since the mid-1990s, especially in northwestern India, thus contributing to understandings of how the micro- processes underlying the female mortality disadvantage have changed over time.
Presented in Session 14. Infant and Child Mortality