Religion, Political Identity and Gender Outcomes: Evidence from Close Elections Between Muslims and Hindus in IndiaISER Internal Seminars

Economic growth in India coincided with a sharp acceleration in rates of female foeticide. Legal reform has failed to reverse this trend, essentially because the reform is difficult to monitor and enforce. We examine whether local politician preferences make a difference, exploiting quasi-random variation in legislator identity generated by close elections between Muslim and Hindu candidates in India. This strategy control for unobserved citizen preferences, and we control for party so as to isolate the role of legislator identity. We find significantly lower female foeticide in districts from which Muslims rather than Hindus win seats in the state legislative assembly. Consistent with foeticide and extension of fertility being alternative ways in which families can achieve their desired sex composition of births, we find higher fertility in Muslim-led districts. Previous work has shown that Muslim families have higher fertility and commit limited foeticide. So the political-composition effects that we identify mirror demographic-composition effects in the population, as predicted by recent models of political identity. Our findings challenge the common perception of conservatism among Muslims with regard to women’s rights. We argue that religious attitudes towards the right to life (abortion) may conflict with religious attitudes towards women’s right to work.

Presented by:

Sonia Bhalotra (ISER)

Date & time:

20 May 2015 11:00 am - 20 May 2015 12:00 pm


Large Seminar Room (2N2.4.16)

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