India’s gender bias in child population, female education and growing prosperity: 1951–2011 with projections to 2026

Author name: 
D.P. Chaudhri
Raghbendra Jha

Using Census and NSS data this paper studies the evolution of Gender Bias (GB) in the age group 0–6 in India and its association with education and higher prosperity. GB is pervasive and has grown over time with higher prosperity and resultant demographic transition and enhanced education. The number of children in the age group 0–14 peaked in 2001 and has, since, been falling. Even as the under 5 mortality rate has fallen from 240.1 per thousand in the 1961 census to 65.6 in 2011, the total fertility rate (TFR) has experienced an equally sharp decline from 6.1 in 1961 to 2.6 in 2011. That large household size (associated with high fertility rates and low Monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE)) is linked with low GB comes as no surprise. However, with higher prosperity and lower TFR GB rises sharply. The percentage difference in GB in successive time periods fell from 0.3 in 1951 to 0.1 in 1961 but accelerated to 1.9 in 2011. GB is higher in the age group 0–4 than in the 0–6 group. GB has actually improved for the age group 10–14 but this fact is irrelevant for the evolution of GB in children since children in that age group will soon be adults. Hence, the outlook for GB in the age group 0–6 appears bleak at least until 2026. The paper also demonstrates that there are wide variations in GB across various states, even districts, of India. In 2011 child population is still high in the EAG states whereas the growth of child population has come down substantially in some states, particularly some southern states and Himachal Pradesh. At the district level we discover that the education of girls is an important determinant of GB. At the household level both improved education of females in the age group 15–49 and higher prosperity lead to worsening of GB. However, at high values of the interaction of these two variables there could be a turnaround in the trend of worsening GB. At present trends, however, this is unlikely to happen at least until 2026. More positive outcomes require social engineering through multidimentional, orchestrated policies, especially in relation to enhanced prosperity and education of women in the child bearing age group. Improvements in GB are discernable in some districts, states and households. In 55 districts GB declined and proportion of girls attending schools increased. Kerala and Tamil Nadu did not have any worsening of GB while GB declined in Himachal Pradesh. Finally, prosperity improved GB among Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Muslims, and households having women in child bearing age group with graduate degrees.

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