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Is sex ratio at birth an appropriate measure of prenatal sex-selection? Findings of a theoretical model and its application to India

Dubuc, S. and Sivia, D. S. (2018) Is sex ratio at birth an appropriate measure of prenatal sex-selection? Findings of a theoretical model and its application to India. BMJ Global Health, 3 (4). e000675. ISSN 2059-7908

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000675


Son preference and prenatal sex selection against females have resulted in significant sex ratio at birth (SRB) imbalances well documented in several Asian countries, including India and China. The SRB bias is generally used as indicator for the extent and trends of prenatal sex selection against females. Decreasing fertility levels are expected to increase sex selection and thus SRB bias, since desiring fewer children increases the risk for families to remain sonless (fertility squeeze effect). We developed and employ mathematical models linking family size, birth order and childbearing strategies with population SRB bias. We show that SRB bias can increase despite fewer sex selection interventions occurring, inconsistent with the expectation of the fertility squeeze effect. We show that a disproportionality effect of fertility reduction amplifies SRB bias, in addition to the fertility squeeze effect, making SRB bias an inaccurate indicator for changes in sex selection practices within a population. We propose to use sex selection propensity (proportion of couples intervening) to measure behavioural change and evaluate policies targeting sex selection practices. We apply our findings to India, showing for instance that sex selection propensity in Punjab and Delhi was lower than in Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh, despite significantly higher SRB bias in the former. While we observe a continuous overall increase in the SRB over the 2005-2010 period in India, our results indicate that prenatal sex selection propensity started declining during that period.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:77443
Publisher:BMJ Publishing


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