Political Economy, Gender and the Girl Child in india
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In India, a strong son preference and offspring sex selection undermines girls’ survival in utero and early childhood. Though motivated by cultural factors, the bias against girls is strengthened by women’s inferior socio-economic position and their under-representation in the public sphere. This dissertation studies how gender representation in political bodies and public policy affect girls’ survival outcomes. First, I examine the impact of women’s political victories on sex selection. Female representation in a male domain like politics can raise the status of women and also improve policy focus on women’s needs. I examine whether increased female representation in state governments improves prenatal and postnatal survival of girls. I also explore the channels through which female politicians affect girls’ survival. Second, I evaluate the impact of a financial incentive scheme aimed at lowering discriminatory treatment of girls. Introduced in 2008, the program offers cash benefits to couples for having and raising daughters. I investigate whether the program improves girls’ prenatal and postnatal survival by altering the relative costs of daughters. Together, these studies highlight the role of the political economy in targeting gender bias and health issues for children.