Gender imbalance highest
among India's affluent: Harvard study
By Richa Sharma
Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) A baby girl is still unwanted in many
Indian homes. What's more, the sex ratio imbalance is highest
among the rich and the educated, says a study by the Harvard
School of Public Health in the US.
India, where families have traditionally preferred son, the
male-female ratio increases with the level of education. The
odds of having a boy compared to a girl is 25 percent higher
in houses where the head of the family has completed schooling.
found that households where the head of the house has completed
schooling had an increased ratio of having a male child compared
to houses with heads receiving no formal education,"
S.V. Subramanian, lead author of the study released last month,
male-female ratio also increases with income, the study found.
Higher income groups are 14 percent more likely to prefer
a boy to a girl while in the poorer sections the preference
may be just four percent more.
areas also reported higher sex imbalance as the odds of having
a boy are 11 percent higher in cities compared to seven percent
in rural areas," Subramanian said.
researchers used a nationally representative, population-based
sample of household survey data provided by the Indian National
Sample Survey Organisation (INSSO) for five recent years:
2004/05, 1999/2000, 1993/94, 1987/88 and 1983. The INSSO survey
covered the whole of the India except for a few inaccessible
and difficult pockets.
also reveals that the introduction of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic
Techniques Act 1994 (PNDT) to check misuse of technology in
this field has failed to correct the imbalance in the sex
sex ratio clearly signifies that the PNDT Act failed to check
sex imbalance as the odds of having a boy increased to 10
percent in the period following the implementation of the
Act. The odds of having a boy were seven percent in the pre-PNDT
period," Subramanian said.
are notable variations among states. Punjab continues to be
the state where the odds of having a boy increased to 37 percent
compared to a girl. Karnataka has the lowest percentage with
the odds of having a boy one percent higher than a girl.
to Subramanian, a positive association between socio-economic
status and sex imbalance is paradoxical given that the affluent
class has been consistently associated with improved health
and other well-being outcomes.
combined effect of persistent and intense son preference,
along with increasing affordability and accessibility to technologies
for sex determination, however, makes the concentration of
male infants among the rich somewhat counter-intuitive,"
the study found.
higher incidence of giving dowry to the bride in marriage
and prevailing inheritance practices favouring sons, both
more common among high-income groups, are key motivations
for an intense preference for sons among them.
a son preference norm could simply be dormant among low income
groups, as they do not possess sufficient resources to practise
discrimination," the study said.
instance, low-income households, with reduced access to technologies
available for foetal sex detection, may be less able to participate
in the activities of foetal sex detection followed by selective