IZA DP No. 7969: Tariffs, Social Status, and Gender in India
published in: Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2019, 67 (3), 687-724
This paper shows that trade policy can have significant intergenerational distributional effects across gender and social strata. We compare women and births in rural Indian districts more or less exposed to tariff cuts. For low socioeconomic status women, tariff cuts increase the likelihood of a female birth and these daughters are less likely to die during infancy and childhood. On the contrary, high-status women are less likely to give birth to girls and their daughters have higher mortality rates when more exposed to tariff declines. Consistent with the fertility-sex ratio trade-off in high son preference societies, fertility increases for low-status women and decreases for high-status women. An exploration of the mechanisms suggests that the labor market returns for low-status women (relative to men) and high-status men (relative to women) have increased in response to trade liberalization. Thus, altered expectations about future returns from daughters relative to sons seem to have caused families to change the sex-composition of and health investments in their children.