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Intergenerational effects of women's status: Evidence from child height in joint Indian households

Research, Social Hierarchy1 min read

Authors: Diane Coffey, Reetika Khera, Dean Spears

Published in: Population Association of America, Annual Meeting 2016

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The hypothesis that a woman's social status has intergenerational effects on the human capital of her children has featured prominently in development policy and social science. Our paper is the first to econometrically identify such an effect.

We exploit an institutional feature of joint households in rural India: women married to the younger brother are assigned lower social rank beginning at marriage than women married to the older brother in the same household. Children of lower-ranking mothers accumulate less health and human capital, reflected in shorter heights and higher mortality, compared to children of higher-ranking mothers in the same household.


r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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