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Christianity and girl child health in India

Nidhiya Menon () and Kathleen McQueeney

World Development, 2020, vol. 136, issue C

Abstract: This paper studies child health focusing on differences in anthropometric outcomes between Christians and non-Christians in India. The non-Christian group includes Hindus and Muslims. Estimates indicate that young Christian children (ages 0–59 months) are less likely to be stunted as compared to similar aged children of Hindu and Muslim identities. The Christian relative advantage is particularly pronounced for girls. Using representative data on child health outcomes and information on the location of Protestant and Catholic missions, differences in the relative timing of establishment of missions in the same area, political crises that mission-establishing countries were engaged in during India's colonial history, and historical information from the 1901 Census, we find that Christian girls are significantly less likely to be stunted as compared to similarly aged non-Christian girls. We find no relative stunting advantage for Christian boys, which we attribute to son preference and patriarchy among Hindus in particular. An analysis of explanatory mechanisms indicates that elementary and higher education schools, as well as hospitals, pharmacies and print shops associated with the advent of Christianity improved the relative human capital of women with subsequent long-term implications for young Christian girls in India today. Our results survive a series of robustness and specification checks.

Keywords: Child Health; Stunting; Christian; Missions; Girls; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I12 I14 I15 O12 O15 Z12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105109

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