Diverging Stories of “Missing Women” in South Asia: Is Son Preference Weakening in Bangladesh?
CitationKabeer, N., Huq, L., & Mahmud, S. (2014). Diverging stories of “Missing women” in south asia: Is son preference weakening in bangladesh? Feminist Economics, 20(4), 138-163. doi:10.1080/13545701.2013.857423
ABSTRACT: 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.