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Does prenatal sex bias substitute postnatal bias against girls? Decomposing the fertility and mortality components of changing child sex ratios across the world

16th February 2016 3pm, University of Southampton, Building 2, Room 1085

Ridhi Kashyap, MPDIR and University of Oxford

The demographic manifestations of son preference across different contexts in South and East Asia and the Caucasus as postnatal excess female infant and child mortality, and in recent decades as prenatal sex selection in the form of sex-selective abortion, are widely documented in the demographic literature. By allowing parents better control of the size and sex composition of their desired families, has the rise and spread of prenatal sex selection substituted postnatal bias in mortality against girls? This paper addresses this question by analysing the dynamics of child sex ratios between 1980 and 2015 using United Nations country-level lifetable data in a comparative perspective. The analysis proceeds in two steps. First, I develop and apply a lifetable decomposition approach to distinguish between a 'fertility' component attributable to prenatal sex selection and 'mortality' components attributable to sex-differentials in postnatal survival to assess when and where the two components overlap and where they have substituted one another as child sex ratios have changed. Second, to assess whether sex differentials in survivorship indicate excess female infant and child mortality, I compare life-table female mortality estimates to model-generated, expected female mortality estimates at a given level of male mortality. Substitution was most clearly evident in South Korea, where excess female mortality in infancy reduced and subsequently disappeared with the onset of prenatal sex selection. In other contexts, where child sex ratios witnessed significant change, evidence for substitution was mixed. Most notably, China and India, did not show clear evidence of substitution between prenatal and postnatal sex bias between 1990-95 and 2000-05, with slight reductions in excess female child mortality evident in India between 2000-05 and 2010-15. In the Caucasus countries, sex biases in mortality appeared alongside prenatal sex selection in the 1990s, but showed a reduction in the period between 2000-05 and 2010-15 .