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Theses Doctoral

Essays on Fertility and Sex Ratios in India

Sharma, Anukriti

In recent decades, several countries have experienced a rapid increase in their sex ratios at birth. This dissertation examines the causes and consequences of these imbalances in the Indian context. Lower desired fertility can translate into more male-biased sex ratios if son preference remains strong, especially with greater availability of prenatal sex-selection technology. Chapter 1 investigates whether financial incentives can simultaneously decrease fertility and the sex ratio at birth. I build a model where the effects of incentives on child-bearing and sex-selection are determined by the degree of son preference and the costs of children and sex-selection, relative to the size of incentives. I test the theoretical predictions in the context of Devirupak, a scheme adopted by the Indian state of Haryana. Devirupak incentivizes parents to have either one child or two daughters. Parents of one girl receive a larger benefit than one-boy or two-girl families, who receive the same amount. I construct a woman-year panel dataset from retrospective birth histories and exploit variation in the state and the timing of implementation and the composition of pre-existing children to estimate the causal effect of this scheme. Devirupak lowers the number of children by 0.9 percent, but mainly through a 1.9 percent decrease in the number of daughters. I find no evidence for an increase in the demand for daughters in response to a decrease in their relative price in the overall sample. However, the proportion of one-boy couples and the sex ratio of first and second births increased significantly. Thus, schemes that induce parents to choose either sons or daughters may lower fertility, but have unintended consequences for sex ratios, despite larger incentives for girls, if a minimum number of sons is desired. Chapter 2 examines the impact of tariff decline on fertility, the sex ratio at birth, and infant mortality in rural Indian districts. In relative terms, women more exposed to tariff cuts are more likely to give birth and these births are more likely to be female. These results are primarily driven by low-caste, low-wealth, and uneducated women. Moreover, infant mortality decreases for girls (but not boys) born to these low-status mothers. On the other hand, fertility decreases and female infant mortality increases for high-status women. They also exhibit a weak increase in the sex ratio at birth. Differential effect of the tariff reform on the relative economic opportunities of women across socioeconomic groups is the most likely mechanism for these results. Chapter 3 analyzes the effects of sex ratio imbalances on pre-marital investments and marital outcomes in India. Changes in the availability of pre-natal sex-selection technology differentially altered the mating pool of individuals born in different states, cohorts, and endogamous social groups. I show that increases in the male to female sex ratio at birth are associated with a decrease in educational attainment, age at marriage, and labor force participation rates, and an increase in spouse's age for women relative to men. These findings are consistent with an improvement in the position of women in the marriage market due to their relative scarcity.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Pop-Eleches, Cristian
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 1, 2013