Gender Gaps in Child Nutritional Status in Punjab, Pakistan

JEL Classification : I14, I15, I2
Publication Year : 2020

Child nutritional status has improved over the period 2008 to 2014 in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province with a population of over 100 million, as rates of severe stunting have declined by 8.6 percentage points and average height-for-age (HFA) has increased by 0.19 standard deviations. However, the nutritional status of children in Punjab is still quite poor in comparison to many Sub-Saharan African countries. Recent research from India suggests eldest son preference and son-biased fertility stopping patterns negatively impacts the nutritional status of other children in the household, especially daughters. In order to test for latent gender discrimination in Punjab, Pakistan, a culturally similar neighbour, we apply a finite mixture model to a sample of couples with at least one child of each gender, though we do not find any. We do find, however, that when there is a larger share of children without an elder brother, that is, there is no son or a son is born after several daughters, that the incidence of stunting is higher and average HFA z-score of a couple’s children is lower, using an OLS analysis. This suggests that some families might be increasing their fertility beyond the number of children they can support in pursuit of sons. In this way, couples’ preferences regarding the gender composition of their children can have subsequent effects on the long- term nutritional status of their children.

Theresa Thompson Chaudhry,

Maha Khan,

Azka Sarosh Mir