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Why are adult women missing? Son preference and maternal survival in India

Annamaria Milazzo

Journal of Development Economics, 2018, vol. 134, issue C, 467-484

Abstract: This paper is the first to show that morbidity and mortality among adult women in India can be partially explained by son preference. First, I show suggestive evidence that women with a first-born girl have lower survival. Second, consistent with prior literature, I find that having a first-born girl leads to fertility behaviors medically known to hurt women's survival. Third, I show new evidence of effects of a first-born girl on a mother's likelihood and severity of anemia. These outcomes are severely aggravated with each successive female birth. Back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that these channels can explain over a quarter of the missing mothers with first-born girls. The paper does not find evidence of discrimination in the allocation of food or receipt of iron supplements, however, severe physical domestic violence increases significantly soon after the birth of a first daughter.

Keywords: Son preference; Maternal morbidity and mortality; India; Missing women; Anemia; Fertility and birth spacing (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J16 J13 I10 D63 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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