Jayachandran, Seema, and Rohini Pande. "Why Are Indian Children so Short? The Role of Birth Order and Son Preference." American Economic Review 107.9 (September 2017): 2600-2629.
Child stunting in India exceeds that in poorer regions like sub-Saharan Africa. Data on over 168,000 children show that, relative to Africa, India’s height disadvantage increases sharply with birth order. We posit that India’s steep birth order gradient is due to favoritism toward eldest sons, which affects parents’ fertility decisions and resource allocation across children. We show that, within India, the gradient is steeper for high-son preference regions and religions. The gradient also varies with sibling gender as predicted. A back-of the-envelope calculation suggests that India’s steeper birth order gradient can explain over one half of the India-Africa gap in average child height.