Religion and Gender Bias: An Examination of Hindu-Muslim Differences in Son Preference in India

Abhijit Visaria, University of Pennsylvania

The role of religion remains a key knowledge gap in understanding determinants of son preference in India. This paper examines data from two waves of the National Family and Health Survey, 1998-99 and 2005-06, to study if and to what extent does son preference differ between Hindus and Muslims, the two largest groups constituting about 95% of the population. I analyze two indicators: latent son preference, measured by women’s self-reported preferred sex composition of children, and revealed son preference, measured by parity-progression ratios indicating son-preferring differential stopping behavior. Results from the first set of models indicate that Muslim women report lower levels of son preference compared to Hindus. The effect of religion remains strongly significant after controlling for known socioeconomic determinants of son preference, suggesting that religious identity, beliefs and practices especially among the majority Hindus may be a key cultural explanation for the persistence of son preference.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Poster Session 1