Kaivan Munshi (University of Cambridge)
Sex selection continues to be pervasive in India, despite many decades of economic progress. It is widely believed that large dowries are the main cause of son preference in India. We show that the root cause of sex selection is not the dowry per se but specific features of the marriage institution in India. We develop an equilibrium model that links wealth to sex selection through the marriage market, and it delivers the prediction that sex selection is increasing with relative wealth. This prediction is tested with unique data we have collected, covering the entire population of 1.1 million individuals residing in half a rural district in South India. The main empirical finding is that the probability that a child is a girl is decreasing as we move up the wealth distribution within castes, which define independent marriage markets in India. Estimation of the model's structural parameters allows us to quantify the impact of alternative policies, which operate through the marriage market, to reduce sex selection.
Kaivan Munshi, Girija Borker, Jan Eeckhout, Nancy Luke, Shantidani Minz, and Soumya Swaminathan
Paul Nortz Saal (HWC)