Hindu-Muslim Differentials in Child Mortality in India

Michel Guillot, University of Pennsylvania

In India, Muslim children exhibit lower child mortality than Hindu children, in spite of the fact that, on average, their mothers are poorer and less educated -- characteristics typically associated with higher child mortality. Using data from the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS 1-3), we seek explanations for this paradox. We test the hypothesis that this paradox may be explained by lower son preference among Muslims. Indeed, lower son preference could produce a more typical pattern of sex differentials in mortality among Muslims and generate lower child mortality among them at the national level, compensating for their lower socio-economic status. However, we find no evidence for this hypothesis in the NFHS data. We find that Muslims are subject to a number of advantages, in addition to the better known disadvantages, which appear to contribute to their lower child mortality. However, part of the Muslim mortality advantage remains unexplained.

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Presented in Session 124: Demography of Health and Mortality in Bangladesh and India