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Protecting Girls from Droughts with Social Safety Nets

Jagori Chatterjee () and Joshua D. Merfeld ()
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Jagori Chatterjee: Furman University
Joshua D. Merfeld: KDI School of Public Policy and Management

No 13694, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: This paper revisits the relationship between agricultural productivity shocks and the infant sex ratio in India and investigates how this relationship changes when households have access to government-provided employment opportunities outside of agriculture. When a household's preference for sons coincides with adverse agricultural productivity shocks, previous research shows that households tend to disproportionately reduce investments (prenatal and postnatal) in their female children. This behavior leads to a relatively more balanced sex ratio in good rainfall years and a more skewed sex ratio (in favor of boys) in inadequate rainfall years. In a deviation from past work, we find evidence of this primarily through prenatal channels in modern India. We then show that a workfare program that decouples both wages and consumption from rainfall attenuates the relationship between rainfall and the infant sex ratio. Using a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we find that the program could have saved at least 0.7 million girls – relative to boys – if the government had implemented it in 2001 to 2005. Additional results on postnatal channels show substantial impacts on the long-term health outcomes of surviving girls, as rainfall no longer differentially affects girls' height-for-age, relative to boys', following the program's implementation.

Keywords: sex ratio; child health; consumption smoothing; workfare program; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H53 I15 I38 O12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 66 pages
Date: 2020-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dev
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