Son Preference in India: Prevelance, Trends and Agents of Change

Shwetlena Sabarwal
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Due to a number of social, cultural and economic considerations, families in parts of India exhibit a strong and persistent preference for sons over daugthers. In the past it has led to skewed sex ratios in the country. The imbalance has been attributed to the systematic discrimination against females in terms of access to nutrition and health care (missing women hypothesis).It was expected that as India went trough a process of economic growth this phenomenon would decline. However, we find that despite considerable economic development and social change, son preference remains high. In recent years the processes of fertility decline and advent of sex selection technologies have meant that families translate their preference for sons into prenatal discrimination against the female fetus, as can be witnessed by the worsening sex ratio at birth in India. I want to investigate the important agents of change in this context. In particular, I look at the role of female literacy, labor force participation and other proxies for autonomy in changing household preferences regarding the sex composition of their families.

Keywords: Demography, Gender, Education, India
Stream: Economics and Management
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Son Preference in India

Shwetlena Sabarwal

PhD Student, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA

I have been a student of development economics for a number of years now and throughout my association with this discipline I have felt the need for interdisciplinary dialogue. I like to focus on the microeconomics of development, in particular household decision making in developing countries. I find that disciplines like sociology, anthropology etc. can inform an economisits understanding considerably on the factors that influence household tastes, constraints and utlimately behavior. I am currently studying the demographic responses of households to socio-cultural changes.

Ref: I07P0226