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Women's status and children's height in India: Evidence from joint rural households « Health « Downloads

Date postedApril 8, 2013
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CategoriesHealth , Working Papers, India, Topic


Children in India are puzzlingly short relative to their level of economic development. Stunting among Indian children is important because childhood height predicts adult human capital and health. One candidate explanation for why Indian children are so short is the very low social status of Indian women who, as mothers, feed and care for children in the early life period that largely determines their height. However, the literature lacks a well-identified test of this conjecture. Our paper applies a novel strategy to identify an effect of women’s status on children’s height. Anthropological and demographic literature suggest that within joint Indian households, women married to older brothers have higher intrahousehold status than women married to younger brothers. We study children of these women: children of higher ranking daughters-in-law are taller, on average, than children of lower ranking daughters-in-law in rural Indian joint households. We provide empirical evidence that lower ranking daughters-in-law indeed have lower status in joint households and rule out several competing explanations for our findings.

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