Family Composition Effects in Gender Differentials in Nutrition and Immunization in Rural India
Pande, Rohini P.
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The literature on gender discrimination over the last several decades has shown that gender differentials in child mortality exist in most regions of the developing world, with particularly severe excess female mortality in India and other parts of South and East Asia. However, discrimination against surviving girls tends to be presumed from the evidence about excess female child mortality and the nature of such discrimination has not received adequate attention. In addition, while recent literature in India and Bangladesh has found that mortality discrimination is "selective" (Das Gupta, 1987), and that girls born into households with many daughters fare particularly badly (Muhuri and Preston, 1991), there has been little research into the role of sibling sex composition in selective discriminatory practices affecting health status among living children. This lack of evidence persists despite the recognition that discrimination in aspects of child care such as morbidity, nutritional status or use of preventive and curative health care is likely to contribute to greater gender differentials in mortality (Miller, 1981; Arnold et al, 1996; Bardhan, 1974, 1982; Kishor, 1993, 1995; Kurz and Johnson-Welch, 1997; Waldron, 1987; Makinson, 1994; Obermeyer and Cardenas, 1997). This paper addresses some of these gaps in the literature by examining gender differentials in immunization and severe stunting among surviving rural Indian children under the age of five years. In particular, I focus on the effects of the sex composition of surviving older siblings on such gender differentials. (The terms “family composition” and “sex composition” are used interchangeably to refer to the sex composition of children in a household.)