In Patriarchal Societies, Gender Discrimination Begins Before Birth

nelsonA study co-authored by Leah K. Lakdawala, an assistant professor of economics at Michigan State University, finds that gender discrimination begins in the womb in male-dominated societies. The study of more than 30,000 women in India, found that women who were pregnant with male babies were more likely than women pregnant with girls to get professional prenatal care, take iron supplements, and deliver their babies in a healthcare facility. Women pregnant with boys were more likely than women pregnant with girls to receive tetanus shots. Tetanus is the leading cause of neonatal fatality in India.

The research, co-authored by Prashant Bharadwaj of the University of California at San Diego, also examined smaller datasets of pregnant women in several other countries. They found that in patriarchal societies in China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, there was evidence of sex discrimination in the womb. But in Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, societies not considered as patriarchal, there was no evidence of a gender gap in prenatal care.

Dr. Lakdawala joined the Michigan State faculty last fall after completing her Ph.D. in economics at the University of California at San Diego. A magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, she earned a master’s degree in economics from University College London.

The study, “Discrimination Begins in the Womb: Evidence of Sex-Selective Prenatal Investments,” was published in the Journal of Human Resources. The article may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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