Consequences of Patriarchal Kinship System in India: Relationship Between Health Outcomes of Elderly and Share of Daughters
37 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 12, 2020
The patriarchal kinship system in India considers boys as harbingers of prosperity and insurance for old age whereas girls are taken as liabilities who require significant outlay of resources through their lifetimes. Such a social system assigns a higher value to sons as against daughters and perpetuates discrimination in various forms. In this paper, instead of focusing on inferior outcomes for daughters, which has already been widely studied, we turn to long-term health outcomes of their parents themselves. We ask if the patriarchal social system, through lifetime resource thinning for parents with a higher share of daughters in total children, penalizes the parents thereby incentivizing discrimination against daughters. In this sense, our attempt in this paper to get beyond symptoms and diagnose the ailment that mutates into discriminatory practices against women. Using the nationally representative data on health from the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) for 2014 we find that a higher share of daughters is associated with increased probabilities of chronic ailment and self-reported poor health among the elderly. These findings deteriorate further for the elderly with two highest quintiles of share of daughters, which also signals the crossing of threshold where potential inflow of resources from sons is outweighed by the anticipated outflows from daughters. The effect sizes are significantly smaller for scheduled tribes whose kinship systems are relatively egalitarian. Our findings remain robust to a variety of internal validity tests. In particular, we use a recent method that accounts for omitted variable bias and find that this possibility leaves our conclusions unchanged. We also document that an average elderly in our analytical sample has lower number of daughters than what the lower bound of natural reproduction rates would suggest. This would imply that our findings are an underestimate of the true effects.
Keywords: Gender discrimination, India, old age
JEL Classification: I14, J12, J14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation