Protecting girls from droughts with social safety nets

Chatterjee, Jagori / Merfeld, Joshua


This paper revisits the relationship between agricultural productivity shocks and the infant sex ratio in India and investigates how this relationship changes when households have access to government-provided employment opportunities outside of agriculture. When a household's preference for sons coin-cides with adverse agricultural productivity shocks, previous research shows that households tend to dis-proportionately reduce investments (prenatal and postnatal) in their female children. This behavior leads to a relatively more balanced sex ratio in good rainfall years and a more skewed sex ratio (in favor of boys) in low rainfall years. In a deviation from past work, we find evidence of this effect primarily through prenatal channels in modern India. More importantly, we show that a workfare program that decouples both wages and consumption from rainfall attenuates the relationship between rainfall and the infant sex ratio. Using a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we find that the program could have saved at least 0.7 million girls - relative to boys - if the government had implemented it from 2001 to 2005. Suggestive evidence also indicates that the program may have attenuated the positive effect of birth year productiv-ity shocks on girls' longer-term height-for-age. (c) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Issue Date
Pergamon Press Ltd.
Keywords Plus
Excess Female Mortality; Prenatal Sex Selection; Intrahousehold Allocation; Market Opportunities; Missing Women; Health-care; India; Children; Height; China
Sex Ratio; Child Health; Consumption Smoothing; Workfare Program; India
Journal Title
World Development
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