Women's Empowerment and Gender Bias in the Birth and Survival of Girls in Urban India

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Asian Studies | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Economics | Education | Family, Life Course, and Society | International and Area Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Despite improvements in women's work opportunities and educational achievements, women's survival disadvantage is a demographic reality of urban India. A temporal and cross-sectional analysis of the data from the 1991 and 2001 census of India, while reaffirming the positive association between women's employment and the birth and survival of more girls, fails to reconfirm the oft-emphasized positive connection between women's education and increased survival of girls. Relatively high levels of women's education, by being indicative of household socioeconomic status, may be associated with increased ability to discriminate against girls through prenatal sex selection, especially in the presence of cultural biases resulting in low women's rates of participation in paid work, persistence of dowry payments, and lack of women's property rights. As the educational achievements of urban Indian women improve, gender discrimination in the birth and survival of girls may intensify as a cumulative effect of socioeconomic factors continuing to favor sons.