India Uncut

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Prosperity and the sex ratio

Jayesh Lalwani points me to an interview of Ashish Bose, a demographer, in which Bose talks about why "[s]tates such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Delhi now have fewer than 900 girls per 1,000 boys." He explains:
The phenomenon of declining sex ratio that showed up in Census 2001 is worst in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Western Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharastra. This defies all demographic theories as these are prosperous states. You expect that when people live better, have better education and economic security, there will be less of a traditional bias against the girl-child; but in India, like China, it has only worsened the situation. Suppose like China, instead of just one, we had a two-child policy, then the Jats and Punjabis would ensure that they had two sons.

In India, there is an unholy alliance between tradition and technology. Tradition is marked by son-preference. Technology started in the ’80s with amniocentesis, most readily available in Punjab, the state made most prosperous by the Green Revolution, and having a long tradition of son- preference. Today ultrasound is the sex-selective technology that is widespread in most prosperous states.

The reasons are easy to define – prosperity ensured better infrastructure, more machines and more doctors to perform the tests. People had money-power to pay for the technology and of course, as infrastructure improved, people could access the clinics easily. All this made foeticide rampant.
There are a bunch of cultural factors for this bias, and local factors that make the ratio worse, such as the tendency in Punjab for men to migrate to the West. Read the full interview. Pretty bleak.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
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