Is Sex Imbalance in Early Age Mortality Driven by Prebirth Environmental Factors, Child Biology, or Parental Preferences? Evidence from Male-Female Twin Pairs

Roland Pongou, Brown University

We propose a methodology that decomposes sex differences in mortality into the effects of pre-birth environmental factors, child biology and parental preferences. Exploiting variation in sex differences in mortality among twins and within male-female twin pairs, and variation in gender bias in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, we show that : (1) pre-birth environmental factors account for a large fraction of the usual excess mortality rates of male children; (2) the biological make-up of male children contributes to this excess mortality only during infancy, but its effect has been previously overstated; and (3) parental discrimination against female children in India negatively affects their survival, but failure to adjust for pre-birth and biological effects leads the conventional methodological approach to understate its effect by 160% during infancy, and 33% during childhood.

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Presented in Session 152: Biomarkers of Fertility, Early Life and Sexual Function