Prejudice against female children: economic and cultural explanations, and Indian evidence
Purpose – The purpose is to outline and illustrate the economic theory of parental self-interest and its implications for the entitlements of children according to their gender, and using empirical data, to determine the extent to which the theory is reflected in discrimination of parents against female siblings in different communities in eastern India. Design/methodology/approach – Using economic analysis, this paper outlines and illustrates the basis of the economics of parental discrimination against female children and structured questionnaires are used to collect data from village rural wives in the Santal tribal belt of West Bengal and in Orissa in Kondh-dominated village to determine the extent to which economics explains parental discrimination between daughters and sons. The selection of the areas has been done on the basis that their different cultural dimensions may affect parental attitudes to female children. The statistical significance of differences in responses between the West Bengal sample and that from Orissa is tested using the chi-squared test. Implications of the results for theory of parental discrimination between siblings according to their gender are outlined. Findings – It is found that parental discrimination in favour of boys and against girls is much more marked in the Santal-dominated belt of West Bengal than in the Kondh-dominated villages of Orissa, where it is absent or virtually so. This is the case despite similar economic conditions and the fact that all the sampled villagers are relatively poor. Differences in cultural values seem to explain the difference. Research limitations/implications – Results could be strengthened by using a similar questionnaire to survey wives in additional villages in the Santal tribal-belt of West Bengal and in more Kondh-dominated villages in Orissa, as well as in other cultural contexts. Furthermore, families in these areas are patriarchal. It would be interesting to obtain results also from Indian communities that have matriarchal families as in parts of Meghalaya. Originality/value – The findings support the view that the behaviour of parents towards children (according to their gender or otherwise) is a combined result of personal parental goals, social structures and cultural values. Economic theories of the family are likely to be too narrow and may be misleading in their predictions unless they take into account the institutional and cultural contexts in which families exist.
Children (kinship), Discrimination, Economics, Family, Human capital, India
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