The Burden of Choice: Mother’s Education and Prenatal Sex Selection

Shwetlena Sabarwal, University of Minnesota

This paper isolates channels through which mother’s education influences propensity for prenatal sex selection in societies with strong son preference. We created a detailed theoretical model and have tested it using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (India, 1998-99). We find that the relationship between mother’s education and pre-natal sex selection is complicated and governed by threshold effects. Econometric analysis shows that sex selection is usually carried out with the second conception and is a common part of the family-building strategy for women with some education. Our regressions show that at the second parity, increasing education implies increased use of sex-selective technologies for balancing household sex composition. However, we also find evidence that suggests that once certain education thresholds are met, the propensity to selectively abort female children increases. We find that other variables of female agency like autonomy and working status do not appear to be systematically related to sex selection.

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Presented in Session 144: Abortion Decision-Making and Experience