Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Sex Differentials in Mortality: A Corollary of Son Preference?

The issue of sex differentials in mortality received attention as early as 1901 when the Super in tendents of Census remarked on the unusually high sex ratios found in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the North West Census of India 1901. More thorough investigations of the phenomenon were begun in the Sixties when detailed examinations of sex ratios in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh attributed their excess to higher female mortality (Vi:iaria (1967); Rukanuddin (1967); Bangladesh Retrospective Survey of Fertility and Mortality (BRSFM) (1977)]. A partial explanation was also found in the omission of female members of households from census counts because of culturally based reluctance to give out names of female household members to enumerators who were strangers plus understating of girls’ ages as some form of ‘protection’ of nubile daughters from the outside world. Most recently, the topic of female disadvantage in mortality at almost all ages in the South Asian subcontinent has received renewed and urgent attention both in research and in the press. The alarm is due to the fact that, despite falls in mortality levels, sex differentials in disfavor of females persist in this region. Also, this remains a peculiarity of the region: whereas females suffer higher female mortality at some ages in some countries, generally female mortality is found to be lower than that of males (lDpez and Ruzicka 1983).

Zeba A. Sathar

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