Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Welcome to Atanu Dey

I'm trying to find a way to say welcome to new IEW member Atanu Dey . It's hard to know how to do this, since saying too little is to 'damn with faint praise' and to say to much is, well, kinda OTT (and hence in bad taste). So I'd just like to give the best introduction I know, which is a piece of Atanu's own work (a piece which connects-in nicely with this ), and say, welcome, friend.

The breast beating about the skewed sex ratio in India has always puzzled me. What is all this bitching and moaning about, really? Why don't these people analyse the situation in its entirety?
Consider the facts:

A. India is overpopulated.
B. Girls are valued less than boys.

C. Neglect of an unwanted child is a greater evil than the aborting of a foetus.

D. The lower supply of women of marriagable age will increase their 'price' leading to a 'negative dowry'.

E. The lower supply of women would retard population growth.

A little reflection on the facts leads one to conclude that the skewed sex ratio is a consequence of other underlying facts such as resource constraints, exhorbitant cost of dowry for getting daughters married, female illiteracy, and so on. Poor families have severe resource constraints, ranging from calories to clothing to education. If sons have a greater net present value (due to their future earning capacity), girls are disadvantaged in the share that they get of the limited resources.
It all boils down to the fact that this is a second-best world. There are multiple problems which conspire to create the skewed sex ratio. Merely addressing the effect leads to idiotic policy recommendations such as banning the determination of the sex of a foetus. One unforunate consequence of that ban could well be the increase in the number of new-born female infants killed, or worse still, chronic neglect of the unwanted girl child.

So what should be the policy response? Either remove all the distortions that lead to the effect or do nothing. For instance, enforce a ban on dowry, enforce a strict limit on the number of pregnancies a woman can have, provide information and materials for effective contraception, increase the marriage age so as to delay the first pregnancy, enforce compulsory and free education for all children, and so on.

All the above may be more than there are resources for. So as a first step, the policy should be to let people make their own decision whether to have a girl child or not by aborting female foetuses. Collectively, it is a rational decision made under the existing constraints.

Of course, if a particular group goes overboard and has no female children, they should be awarded the Darwin Prize for having selected themselves out of the gene pool.

No comments: