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Gender-discriminatory premarital investments, fertility preferences and breastfeeding in Egypt

Abhishek Chakravarty

Economics Discussion Papers from University of Essex, Department of Economics

Abstract: We investigate whether Egyptian mothers display son preference in their breastfeeding behaviour, given the trade off between the protective effects of breastfeeding and its contraceptive properties. We also examine how intensity of exposure to gender-biased parental investments before childbirth affects maternal nursing behaviour, exploiting exogenous variation in mothers' age at premarital genital mutilation. We find mothers breastfeed boys for longer than girls, but breastfeed both boys and girls longer and more equally if they already have sons. Excess children are breastfed longer, reflecting reduced maternal desire to conceive beyond ideal family size. However these 'unwanted' children are also breastfed less exclusively during infancy, receiving less protection from illness. Mothers circumcised before adolescence wean infants faster if they already have sons, in direct contrast to mothers circumcised when older. The bias in favour of older sons shown by mothers circumcised early is unaltered by educational attainment.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; fertility; gender bias; Egypt (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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