Economic Development, Gender Inequality, and Demographic Outcomes: Evidence from India



This article examines the determinants of fertility, child mortality, and female disadvantage in child survival in India, using a district-level panel data set linking 1981 and 1991 censuses. The results question the dominant view that variables directly related to women's agency (specifically, the female literacy rate and the female labor force participation rate) have played the crucial roles here. Instead, variables reflecting the general level of development and modernization are shown to have had the greatest effect in reducing fertility and child mortality during the period of the study. Both economic development and women's agency are seen to have had significant effects in reducing the female disadvantage in child survival. The results suggest, however, that with continued economic development, the two women's agency variables lose their significance in influencing this disadvantage. The policy implications of these findings are considered.