Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Terra McKinnish

Second Advisor

Tania Barham

Third Advisor

Francisca Antman


This dissertation is composed of three studies. The first chapter examines the substitutability between sex-selective abortions and postnatal gender discrimination. The second chapter explores the relationship between parental son preference, level of female autonomy, and gender gaps in child nutrition. The final chapter examines differences in spousal choices and intra-household gender relations across different marriage types prevalent in India. The first chapter tests whether sex-selective abortions have substituted for discrimination against girls after birth. First, I identify the groups where the likelihood of sex-selective abortions being used is the greatest and then check if these same groups have experienced increases in girls' health investments and outcomes. Results indicate that wealthy urban households exhibit the largest sex ratio imbalance. This same group exhibits a relative increase in the duration of breastfeeding for girls. In contrast, the biggest improvements in relative female postneonatal mortality rates are observed in poorer rural households who are less likely to practice sex selection. Overall, the results suggest that sex selection and postnatal discrimination are practiced by different groups. The second chapter examines whether gender gaps in child nutrition are evident in the presence of parental son preference and then tests if this relationship varies with the level of female autonomy. When mothers have a son preference, gender gaps in child nutrition are observed if she is involved in making household decisions. In contrast, no independent association is found between child nutrition outcomes and paternal son preference. The third chapter examines differences in spousal choices and intra-household gender relations across marriage types, which are categorized based on the extent of a woman's say in the choice of her partner. The results indicate that in arranged marriages, women are more likely to marry someone from the same caste and someone at least as educated as her. On the other hand, self-arranged marriages are likely to take place between similarly aged individuals and individuals from different castes. Furthermore, the greatest autonomy in decision making is found among women involved in the choice of their spouse together with their parents rather than among women in self-arranged marriages.

Included in

Economics Commons