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Why Are Indian Children So Short? The Role of Birth Order and Son Preference
Authors: Seema Jayachandran and Rohini Pande
Source: American Economic Review, American Economic Review 2017, 107(9): 2600–2629
Topic(s): Birth interval
Country: Asia
Published: OCT 2017
Abstract: Child stunting in India exceeds that in poorer regions like sub- Saharan Africa. Data on over 168,000 children show that, relative to Africa, India’s height disadvantage increases sharply with birth order. We posit that India’s steep birth order gradient is due to favoritism toward eldest sons, which affects parents’ fertility decisions and resource allocation across children. We show that, within India, the gradient is steeper for high-son-preference regions and religions. The gradient also varies with sibling gender as predicted. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that India’s steeper birth order gradient can explain over one-half of the India- Africa gap in average child height. (JEL I12, J13, O15, Z12, Z13)