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Diverging stories of “missing women” in South Asia: is son preference weakening in Bangladesh?

Kabeer, Naila ORCID: 0000-0001-7769-9540, Huq, Lopita and Mahmud, Simeen (2013) Diverging stories of “missing women” in South Asia: is son preference weakening in Bangladesh? Feminist Economics, 20 (4). pp. 138-163. ISSN 1354-5701

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13545701.2013.857423


South Asia is a region characterized by a culture of son preference, severe discrimination against daughters, and excess levels of female mortality, leading to what Amartya Sen called the phenomenon of “missing women.” However, the onset of fertility decline across the region has been accompanied by considerable divergence in this phenomenon. In India, improvements in overall life expectancy have closed the gender gap in mortality rates among adults, but persisting gender discrimination among children and increasing resort to female-selective abortion has led to growing imbalance in child sex ratios and sex ratios at birth. In Bangladesh, by contrast, fertility decline has been accompanied by a closing of the gender gap in mortality in all age groups. Using quantitative and qualitative data, this study explores changing attitudes toward sons and daughters in Bangladesh to explain why the phenomenon of “missing women” has played out so differently in these two neighboring countries.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 IAFFE
Divisions: Gender Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
JEL classification: D - Microeconomics > D1 - Household Behavior and Family Economics
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J1 - Demographic Economics > J13 - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
Z - Other Special Topics > Z1 - Cultural Economics; Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology > Z13 - Social Norms and Social Capital; Social Networks
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2014 16:02
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 17:51
Funders: International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

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