Journal Article

India's missing girls: biology, customs, and economic development

V. Bhaskar and Bishnupriya Gupta

in Oxford Review of Economic Policy

Published on behalf of The Oxford Review of Economic Policy Ltd

Volume 23, issue 2, pages 221-238
Published in print June 2007 | ISSN: 0266-903X
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1460-2121 | DOI:
India's missing girls: biology, customs, and economic development

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We review the evidence on the sex ratio among children below the age of six. International evidence shows that the sex ratio at birth is slightly biased towards boys, but boys suffer greater mortality, a pattern consistent with Darwinian evolution. With economic development, the male bias in the child sex ratio increases. South and East India show levels and trends in the child sex ratio that are consistent with this evidence. However, unbalanced sex ratios in the northern and western states since the first censuses indicate discrimination against girls. Technological developments permitting sex-selective abortions have seriously aggravated the imbalances in these states. Economic modelling of parental choice regarding a child's gender suggests that gender imbalances may be consistent with individual maximization and marriage-market equilibrium. Nevertheless, these choices have adverse welfare consequences, which will be aggravated by the decline in population growth and consequent relaxation of the ‘marriage squeeze’.

Keywords: child sex ratio; gender discrimination; selective abortions; marriage markets; J12; J13; J16

Journal Article.  9746 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Demographic Economics

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