“Policy or Perception? Women’s Political Liberalization and Sex-selection in India” (Job Market Paper) [pdf]  [ETRM blog]

This paper investigates the impact of female representation in political office on girls’ survival outcomes in India. In a society where the marginalization of women extends to the elimination of girls in utero and early childhood, female participation in a male dominated public sphere may raise the status of women. Using a panel of births to 500,000 mothers, I examine if changes in the gender composition of elected representatives in the district affect the probability of a female birth and girls’ postnatal survival. To mitigate endogeneity concerns from unobserved voter preferences, I exploit the quasi-randomness of female victories in close man-woman elections using a regression discontinuity design. Overall, an increase in elected female representatives in the district lowers the probability of a female birth but improves postnatal survival of girls relative to boys. While the former effect is primarily driven by fertility declines in the presence of son preference, the latter ensues from a potential substitution between prenatal and postnatal survival. In addition, I find that the effect of female electoral success reverses after political reform or policy favoring girls is introduced, suggesting the impact of individual victories depends on a broader based commitment to raise the status of women. The analysis reveals that the policy regime for girls both affects and is affected by the political process. Finally, I argue that the effects of women’s political voice on girls operate through the dual channels of policy and perception.

Can Buy Me Care? A Financial Incentive Scheme and Daughter Care in India(Working Paper)

This paper examines the impact of a conditional cash transfer program on health outcomes for girls in India. With a view to improve sex ratios and alleviate the status of girls, the Dhan Lakshmi financial incentive scheme of 2008 offers financial benefits to parents for raising daughters. A part of the cash grants are administered on birth of a female child. Using data from the District-Level Household Survey of 2007-08 and 2012-13, this study exploits a difference-in-difference strategy to test the efficacy of the program on female births in the states of Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. I find that the program raises the likelihood of a female birth in Punjab. A child born in the treated district post-Dhan Lakshmi is two percentage points more likely to be a girl than a child born in one of the untreated district of the state during this period. On the other hand, the program has no significant impact on female births in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

"Sanitation for Safety? Effect of Crime Against Women on India’s Rural Sanitation Program" (Work in Progress)

This paper investigates the causal effect of women’s sexual victimization on the demand for sanitation facility in India. In a society where outdoor violence against women is rife, the lack of household sanitation infrastructure unequivocally exposes them to the risk of sexual crimes. Conceivably, a high incidence of outdoor crime against women in the district may act as a natural incentive for households to build toilets. The study uses district-wise annual statistics on crime from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and yearly updates on the physical progress of Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), a public sanitation works program initiated in 1999. The estimation sample is a balanced panel covering 550 districts between 2001-2014. Applying panel data models, I analyze if the level of outdoor crime against women affects the number of toilets built under TSC in successive years. The results are also verified for consistency using household data from two waves of District Level Household Survey.