Female Mortality Disadvantage in India

Carly Hanson, Rebecca Hubbard


Sons are considered more valuable than daughters in India, due to a strong patriarchal society. This son preference can be exercised to ensure that sons have higher chance of survival than daughters. Consequently, the girl child may suffer from significant mortality disadvantage. The two types of mortality disadvantage are: pre-natal sex selection—leading to a deficit of girls at birth—and post-natal discrimination— resulting in excess female infant mortality. While female mortality disadvantage has created a large number of missing girls in India, the prevalence of pre-natal sex selection and post-natal discrimination varies by state. The objective is to estimate the number, percentage, and source of female mortality disadvantage Data from three National Family Health Surveys (NFHS- 1992, 1998, 2005) was used to estimate the number of missing girls in fourteen states. Mortality rates of the Southern state Kerala was the standard for low discrimination. Across all three surveys, the northern and central regions accounted for the majority of the total female deficit at birth, while the Southern states showed little to no deficit. Punjab and Haryana (North) had the highest percentage of females missing at birth. Rajasthan (North), Uttar Pradesh (Central), and Madhya Pradesh (Central) had some of the highest percentages of excessive female deaths. This study draws attention to the wide regional variation in both source and percentage of missing girls. Targeted policy recommendations are discussed for individual states in order to improve policy effectiveness that target the most pressing issue of missing girls in each state.


India; Missing Girls; Female Mortality Disadvantage

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