Regarding Gender Mortality in India

October 27, 2006 at 2:24 pm (Links, Sam's Posts)

I realize I often resort to asking about/talking about interesting articles instead of posting solely based on physical experience or mental pondering.

Nonetheless. I decided today that I should take advantage of my automatic access to just about any journal I want.

Excess Female Mortality in India

Now, this article is from 2000, so the numbers have definitely changed. But the problem is still the same.

In particular I wonder whether or not the state of decline in female:male ratios that existed in 90s still exists. Do males still (allegedly) benefit more from nutritional and health advancement? I wish the author didn’t glaze over the reasons for uneven populations of men and women – “While the reasons for India’s anomalous sex ratio are fairly well established…” – but the examination of Himachal Pradesh seems like it might have a lot of potential. And it’s inspiring that something as concrete as literacy rates could explain an increase in female:male ratios; to me the improvement literacy rates seems a lot more doable, while also not being something that I would have thought of on my own.  I’ll have to look for publications involving further research into Himachal Pradesh.




  1. Alexandra Coria said,

    Sam –

    This relationship between literacy rates and health is well-established in the literature; in fact I even remember reading, perhaps even for Burden of Disease in Developing Countries at Brown, an article that established that women who had even just a few years of education could better interpret radio (not even written!) messages about health care. Fascinating.

    But this interesting tidbit aside, as a population becomes more literate, they also tend to read more (meaning that they have greater exposure to public health and human rights messaging). Additionally, they become more economically stable and stop having as many kids, meaning that resources once reserved for male children can now be extended to benefit female children as well, e.g., when there’s more money, or a higher general standard of living, girls get to go to the doctor and eat more. (A complication here actually goes to a previous post of Sarah’s that addressed one problem of success of family planning policies – that abortion of female fetuses actually may become more common.)

    Obviously these are all blanket statements and vary widely from culture to culture and family to family, but they’re trends that have been generally established. The link between education/literacy and sex ratios, and education and health in general, is a fascinating topic, and, if I may bring it back home for a moment, points toward the glaring need for the industrialized world as well as the developing world to invest more in the education of its youth.

  2. misarita said,

    I take issue with the census data that he talks about in this article. On one hand, I think it is amazing that India has been carrying out a census for so long, and it provides some valuable data. But, there have been all sorts of problems identified with their previous census taking. One example–one year, they saw a huge increase in the number of people who died of a certain disease (I think it was diabetes-related deaths). After a whole lot of hype about what they worried was an increase in diabetes, they realized that the numerical increase was due to a change in how death certificates were recorded; in the previous census, only the major cause of death was listed while the more recent data had changed such than secondary causes were listed. So, what looked like a changing health trend was actually a change in data collection.

    I also think it is really dangerous to look at aggregate data. He sort of brings up this point, but glosses over it. There are HUGE variations between the different states in India, so most data that tries to compile that is missing the picture.

    One piece to think about–someone here conducted a study about women and private decision making. I have data on three factors–the percentage of women who reported having no participation in their decision making, the percentage who made decisions regarding their own health, and the percentage who had access to money. HP had the best rates across all three indicators (0.8%, 80.8%, and 80.1%), even as opposed to some of the states that often have the best indicators, like Maharashtra (7.2%, 49.9%, and 64.2%). Among the worst states, like Rajasthan, you see figures like 13.3%, 40.6% and 40.5%. Just to drive home the point of aggregate data, I think that you loose a lot of these details when you look at the overall India data for the same factors, which come out to be 9.4%, 51.6% and 59.6%.

  3. Jessica Pickett said,

    On a related note, Emily Oster – formerly a student of Sen’s at Harvard – identified a possible medical explanation for at least some of the missing women: hepatitis B. See her full paper in the Journal of Political Economy, or a summary of the discussion in Slate.

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