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The influence of female literacy on the sex ratio in Indian states.

Introduction

Female Literacy is probably the most enabling tool and weapon in the arsenal of democracy. Literacy emboldens half the populace to successfully demand their rights and achieve gender parity. In the recent past, tumultuous events have propelled women's rights into the spotlight and center stage. However the practice of son preference and consequently female feticide and infanticide persist. This has resulted in skewed sex ratio's, Sex ratio denotes the number of females per 1000 male population. [1] The high masculinity ratio in India is due to the traditional practice of female infanticide and the current practices of female feticide, in addition higher survival ratios of male children due to the benefits of improvement in health care benefitting male children more also contributes to the imbalance in the sex ratio. [2] Between 1950 and 2010 a total of 58.29 million women went missing, of which 28 percent were due to selective sex abortion and 72 percent due to post-natal excess mortality. [3] Female literacy is believed to act as a deterrent and a dissuader of such practices. An analysis of the National Family Health Survey 1992-1993 revealed that women's education is associated with weaker son preference. [4] Change in Sex Ratio is a more accurate indicator and reliable guide of socio-economic progress than Sex Ratio at a particular point in time. [5] Therefore by analysing the data on female literacy and sex ratios in individual states from the past 4 censuses, our study intends to not only study the influence of female literacy on the sex ratio but also its influence on the change in sex ratio over the past three decades.

Materials and Methods

Data on the female literacy rates of twenty four states were collected from the census reports of 1981, 1991 [6] 2001 and 2011 [7]. Three small states were carved out from three large states in 2000. These three large states-Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are among the most populous states in India and bifurcation of these states might marginally affect the results in our study, but the sheer size of these states made inclusion of their data imperative. Data from two states- Assam and Jammu & Kashmir were not included in this study because the census was not conducted in Assam in 1981 and Jammu & Kashmir in 1991. Data on the sex ratios of the states was similarly included from the 1981, 1991, 2001 [8] and 2011 [9] censuses. Statistics for India as a whole were also included in the study to serve as a benchmark and as a point of reference. The change in both female literacy and sex ratios between successive censuses was calculated and the change in sex ratio for every percentage rise in female literacy was determined from the division of the change in sex ratio by the change in female literacy between 2 successive censuses.

Results

Table 1 provides the data on the sex ratios in individual states from the four censuses between 1981 and 2011. The sex ratio in India has improved from 934 in 1981 to 943 in 2011.

Kerala had a sex ratio of 1032 and Delhi had the worst gender imbalance with a sex ratio of 808 in 1981. In the 2011 census Kerala had a sex ratio of 1084, Delhi continued to be the worst performer again, with a sex ratio of 868. In 1991, 15 states showed a decline in the sex ratio from 1981. In 2001, 8 states showed a decline in the sex ratio from the previous census and in 2011 only 2 states, Bihar and Gujarat showed a decline in their sex ratios.

Table 2 reveals the female literacy rate from the past 4 censuses, Female Literacy in India has improved from 29.85% in 1981 to 65.4% in 2011. Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, both had a literacy rate of 14% in 1981, which was the lowest among the states. In 2011 Rajasthan was again the least female literate state with a female literacy rate of 52.6%. Kerala had a female literacy rate of 75.6% in 1981 and 91.9% in 2011, which was the best female literacy rate in both the censuses.

Table 3 shows the change in sex ratio for every 1% rise in the female literacy rate. Delhi (4.32) showed the greatest improvement in the sex ratio for every percent rise in female literacy in the decade between 1981 and 1991. In the next decade Kerala (14.67) showed the maximum improvement and for the 2001 to 2011 decade Mizoram (16.52) was the best performer. States with higher literacy rate with the exception of Delhi had more balanced gender ratios. States that had higher literacy rates showed more rapid gains in sex ratio for every percent rise in female literacy. States which showed dramatic gains on female literacy rate had similar beneficial effects on their sex ratios.

There was a significant difference in the sex ratios and female literacy rates of the Southern and Northern states. This is illustrated in Figure 1 and 2, Figure 1 shows the relationship between sex ratio and female literacy in the Southern states. Figure 2 shows the same relationship in the Northern states. Kerala has the best female literacy rate and the same state was the only state in the country where women outnumbered women. Rajasthan, the state which had the least percentage of female literates had a sex ratio of 928. Tamil Nadu's female literacy rate was in the mid-seventies and its sex ratio was 996. The female literacy rate in South India is higher than most states in Northern India and this gets reflected in the sex ratios too.

Discussion

Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations famously said 'Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope'. In the case of female literacy it is both bridge and a beacon. In the past few years the fight for women's rights have been suddenly pushed into the forefront and there is increasing awareness about societal issues confronting women but one concern that needs to be increasingly addressed is the issue of 'missing women'. Females who were not 'born' and in some cases allowed to die, because of a deep seated gender bias. A study published in Demography revealed that son preference in India had two significant effects first; smaller families have a higher proportion of sons than larger families. Second, economically and socially disadvantaged families in Northern India have a higher proportion of sons. [10] Parents whose first child is male will stop having children faster than parents whose first child is female, and also on average parents of a first born son will have fewer children. [11] Son targeting fertility behaviour results in girls having a larger number of siblings, and girls being born at relatively earlier parities within families. [12] The Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), defined as the number of boys born to every 100 girls for second births with one preceding girl the ratio in India is 132 and for third births with two previous daughters it was 139, whereas sex ratios are normal when the previous child was a boy. [13] The Sex Ratio for the second order births when the first born was a girl fell from 906 per 1000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005 but there was no significant decline in sex ratios for second order births if the firstborn was a boy. [14] Parity progress driven by the desire for sons accounted for 7% of births and at any given parity the last born child of women who had stopped child bearing was more likely to be a son than a daughter. [15] Son preference has other consequences too, including on the birth and fertility rate. A study conducted in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state observed that sex preference, particularly son preference played a vital role in the contraceptive practices among women and this in turn had a major role in determining the total fertility rate of women in the state. [16] Son preference was not limited by geographical boundaries and often has roots in ethnicity, Indian immigrants in the west, with high levels of literacy and a high income profile are sometimes unfortunately moored in some traditional biases, this is reflected in various studies on the Indian diaspora. In the United States, data on the children of Asian origin demonstrated male biased ratios. [17] A similar study in Canada revealed that multiparous women born in India were significantly more likely than multiparous women born in Canada to have a male infant. [18] This indicates that while literacy can be a deterrent to gender bias, conservative moorings can sometimes overwhelm these benefits of literacy. The highly masculine sex ratio in India was analyzed using population projections based on population dynamics and the findings showed that a sex ratio at birth of 106 males per 100 females and differences in mortality at young ages persisting over a long period result in the skewered sex ratio. [19] Excess female mortality or the lowness of the relative survival advantage of women is the single most important determinant of "missing women" in India. [20] Some experts attribute India's improved sex ratio now to the longer life expectancy in women, age specific data is needed to prove this postulation, but generally life spans have increased for both genders. By 2050, India's elderly population is estimated to be 316 million [21]

Technology has a huge role in increasing the life expectancy and it has had a significant impact on health and the screening and prevention of illnesses. Modern science influences life on a daily basis and it is an invaluable tool in the war against disease and squalor. But sometimes these very tools can be misused and defeat the very purpose for which they were developed. A review of the evidence on the sex ratio among children below 6 years revealed that technological developments permitting sex-selective abortions have seriously aggravated the imbalances in the states [22] States with a higher number of registered prenatal diagnostic facilities per 1,00,000 women have a lower child sex ratio than states where these facilities are less available [23] China, which until recently followed a strict single child policy has dismal rates in sex ratio. Forty to fifty percent of the increase in sex imbalance at birth in China can be attributed to availability of ultrasound examinations. [24] Antenatal detection of gender and consequent feticides have reduced the number of 'unwanted' girls, this has resulted in unintended corollary effects. A study on malnutrition in India revealed that there was a reduction in girl's malnutrition in areas of increasing incidence of prenatal sex detection [25]

Interregional differences in sex ratio were also observed in our study, states with a higher female literacy generally had better sex ratios, Southern states have a superior female literacy rate when compared to their counterparts in the North, and in our study the state with the best literacy rate had the best female to male ratio. States which had a higher female literacy rate outperformed the states with a lower literacy rate on sex ratio parameters. The increase in the number of states showing positive movement on the sex ratio front with successive censuses, especially in states that have significant gains in female literacy shows that female literacy has a major positive influence on sex ratios. Data from the 1998-1999 National Family Health Survey demonstrates that women in South Indian states have relatively higher levels of literacy, labor force participation, smaller family size and lower levels of son preference [26] Greater female literacy results in more involvement in decision making and higher percentage of women employed. Lower female labor participation was an important determinant of anti-female child bias [27] All though states in the North generally have low sex ratios, some states like Himachal Pradesh have bucked the trend and have made considerable improvements in their sex ratios. An editorial in the American Journal of Public Health lauded the efforts of Himachal Pradesh in reducing the Sex Ratio from 884 per 1000 males in 1901 to 976 in 1991. The editorial attributed Himachal Pradesh's success to increase in female literacy, greater participation of females in the labor force and significant improvement in health care [28] Data from 117 countries was studied to test the Guttentag-Secord theory on sex ratio and women's status and roles. The theory implies that a high sex ratio is positively associated with the proportion of women who marry and the fertility ratio and negatively associated with women's age at marriage, female literacy and labor force participation. The analysis revealed little support for this theory but most of these relationships emerged when the level of socioeconomic development was statistically controlled [29] Delhi's low sex ratios may be due to a higher percentage of the immigrant population being male. One of the consequences of regional variation in sex ratios is greater national integration, grooms in Haryana finding brides in Kerala is a happy collateral effect, with the passage of time such consequences will be more pronounced and noticeable. This intermingling will result in a diminishing of conservative gender biases. Greater media access and exposure to entertainment mediums such as television and popular films will help in the spread of liberal thoughts and in surmounting conservative dogma. A three year study on the influence of cable TV on women's status revealed that the introduction of cable Television was associated with increased women's autonomy and decline in domestic abuse, fertility and son preference [30]

An imbalance in the sex ratio results in less marriageable opportunities for men. This results in a greater accumulation of youth who do not have the emotional anchor of a spouse or a child. Men who are unemployed or uneducated are more likely to be the ones who are not cocooned by matrimony and it is this segment of the population that is vulnerable to societal and peer pressure to indulge in antisocial and nefarious activities. Interpol data from 70 countries was analyzed and the study revealed that societies with an imbalanced sex ratio had higher rates of violent crime such as homicide, rapes and assaults. [31] The overwhelming majority of violent crime is committed by young, unmarried men of low socioeconomic status. [32] The homicide rates in 56 countries were examined and it was discovered that the homicide rate could be predicted by a linear equation combining measures of economic inequality, negative per capita income growth and negative sex ratio of men to women. [33]

Various measures to improve the sex ratio have been designed and implemented with varying degrees of success. These have ranged from incentives for the girl child such as subsidized education, health care and cash hand-outs for marriages and punitive measures against ante natal sex determination. In the late 1990s it was estimated that more than 1,00,000 sex selective abortions of female fetuses were done in India, particularly in Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. Enforcing of recent government regulations might have some effect but can be more successful if combined with societal changes. [34] Stricter enforcement of laws coupled with stronger regulations may be beneficial. In South Korea strong laws forbidding fetal sex determination had resulted in a dramatic improvement in the sex ratio in the year the law was enforced, punitive measures included suspension of license of the guilty physician. The sex ratio in that year improved from 117 to 113. [35] Therefore rather than just implementation of laws, more robust laws along with greater awareness and inculcating a more liberal ethos with female literacy as the lynch pin, could be the ideal template for a successful strategy to achieve gender parity.

Conclusion

In conclusion while it is known that female literacy has an inverse relationship with sex ratio, what this study adds to the discourse is that the change in sex ratio for percentage rise in female literacy is more for high literate states and that the positive change in sex ratio gains momentum with rise in female literacy. Therefore states with a higher ranking on female literacy will advance towards gender balance at a faster pace. Gender parity has collateral effects on labor force participation, overall crime rates and faster socioeconomic progress. This revelation should motivate states to enhance and reinforce their efforts at improving female literacy.

References

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[2.] Singh JP. Socio-cultural Aspects of the High Masculinity Ratio in India. J Asian Afr Stud 2010;45:628-44.

[3.] Chaudhari S. Female Infant Mortality Disadvantage in India: A Regional Analysis. Rev Radic Polit Econ 2012;44:321-6.

[4.] Pande RP, Astone NM. Explaining son preference in rural India: the independent role of structural versus individual factors. Popul Res Policy Rev 2007;26:1-29.

[5.] Jayaraj D, Subramanian S. The wellbeing implications of a change in the sex-ratio of a population. Soc Choice Welfare 2009;33:12950.

[6.] Percentage of literates in states. Table 10. Information Repository of education in India. Ministry of Human Resources and Development. Government of India. Available from: http://www.teindia.nic.in/mhrd/50yrsedu/r/6H/HI/6HHI0701.h tm.

[7.] Rankings of State and Union Territories by literacy rate and sex. Provisional Population Data 2011, Census of India, Office of Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. In: Statement 23(2). State of Literacy.p.111.

[8.] Databook for the use of the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. May 2011 p.123.

[9.] Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. Available from http://www.census2011.co.in/sexratio.php.

[10.] Clark S. Son preference and sex composition of children: Evidence from India. Demography 2000;37:95-108.

[11.] Rosenblum D. The effect of fertility decisions on excess female mortality in India. J Popul Econ 2013;26:147-180.

[12.] Basu D, de Jong R. Son targeting fertility behaviour: some consequences and determinants. Demography 2010;47:521-36.

[13.] Jha P, Kumar R, Vasa P, Dhingra N, Thiruchelvam D, Moineddin R. Low male-to-female sex ratio of children born in India: national survey of 1.1 million households. Lancet 2006; 367:211-8.

[14.] Jha P, Kesler MA, Kumar R, Ram F, Ram U, Aleksandrowicz L et al. Trends in selective abortions of girls in India: analysis of nationally representative birth histories from 1990 to 2005 and census data from 1991 to 2011. Lancet 2011; 377:1921-8.

[15.] Chaudhuri S. The Desire for Sons and Excess Fertility: A Household-Level Analysis of Parity Progression in India. Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health 2012; 38:178-86.

[16.] Singh HK, Singh RD, Singh GP, Kumar A. Influence of sex composition on demand of child in Uttar Pradesh. Ind J Prev Soc Med 2010;41:57-66.

[17.] Almond D, Edlund L. Son-biased sex ratios in the 2000 United States Census. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2008;105:5681-2

[18.] Joel G. Ray JG, Henry DA, Urquia ML. Sex ratios among Canadian liveborn infants of mothers from different countries. Can Med Assoc J 2012;184:492-6.

[19.] Griffiths P, Mathews Z, Hinde A. Understanding the sex ratio in India: A simulation approach. Demography 2000;37:477-88.

[20.] Jayaraj D. Exploring the importance of excess female mortality and discrimination in "Natality" in explaining the "Lowness" of the sex ratio in India. Dev Econ 2009;47:177-201.

[21.] James KS. India's Demographic Change: Opportunities and Challenges. Science 2011;333: 576-80.

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[23.] Madan K, Breuning MH. Impact of prenatal technologies on the sex ratio in India: an overview. Genet Med 2014;16(6):425-32.

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[31.] Barber N. The Sex Ratio as a Predictor of Cross-National Variation in Violent Crime. Cross-Cult Res 2000;34:264-82.

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[33.] Lim F, Bond MH, Bond MK. Linking Societal and Psychological Factors to Homicide Rates across Nations. J Cross-Cult Psychol 2005;36:515-36.

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Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of interest: None declared

Anil Shetty (1), Shraddha Shetty (2)

(1) Department of Pediatrics, Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

(2) Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Correspondence to: Anil Shetty (anilshettyk@hotmail.com)

DOI: 10.5455/ijmsph.2014.100720142

Received Date: 01.07.2014

Accepted Date: 10.07.2014

Table-1: Sex Ratio in Indian states 1981-2011

                            Sex Ratio

States              1981    1991    2001    2011
                    (a)     (b)     (c)     (d)

Andhra Pradesh      9 7 5   972     978     993
Arunachal Pradesh   862     859     901     938
Bihar               948     907     921     918
Delhi               808     827     821     868
Goa                 975     967     960     973
Gujarat             942     934     921     919
Haryana             870     865     861     879
Himachal Pradesh    973     976     970     972
Karnataka           963     960     964     973
Kerala              1032    1036    1058    1084
Madhya Pradesh      921     912     920     931
Maharashtra         937     934     922     929
Manipur             971     958     978     992
Meghalaya           954     955     975     989
Mizoram             919     921     938     976
Nagaland            863     886     909     931
Orissa              981     971     972     979
Punjab              879     882     874     895
Rajasthan           919     910     922     928
Sikkim              835     878     875     890
Tamil Nadu          977     974     986     996
Tripura             946     945     950     960
Uttar Pradesh       882     876     898     912
West Bengal         911     917     934     950
India               934     927     933     943

                       Change in Sex Ratio

                    81-91   91-01   01-11
                    (b-a)   (c-b)   (d-c)

Andhra Pradesh      -03     06      15
Arunachal Pradesh   -03     42      37
Bihar               -41     14      -03
Delhi               19      -06     47
Goa                 -08     -07     13
Gujarat             -08     -13     -02
Haryana             -05     -04     -02
Himachal Pradesh    03      -06     02
Karnataka           -03     04      09
Kerala              04      22      26
Madhya Pradesh      -09     08      11
Maharashtra         -03     -12     07
Manipur             -13     20      14
Meghalaya           01      20      14
Mizoram             02      17      38
Nagaland            23      23      22
Orissa              -10     01      07
Punjab              03      -08     21
Rajasthan           -09     12      06
Sikkim              43      -03     15
Tamil Nadu          -03     12      10
Tripura             -01     05      10
Uttar Pradesh       -06     22      14
West Bengal         06      17      16
India               -07     06      10

Table-2: Female Literacy in Indian states 1981-2011

                      Female literacy Rate (%)

States              1981    1991   2001    2011
                    (a)     (b)    (c)     (d)

Andhra Pradesh      24.1    32.7   50.4    59.7
Arunachal Pradesh   14.0    29.7   43.5    59.5
Bihar               16.5    22.9   33.1    53.3
Delhi               62.6    67.0   74.7    80.9
Goa                 55.1    67.1   75.4    81.8
Gujarat             38.4    48.6   57.8    70.7
Haryana             26.9    40.5   55.7    66.7
Himachal Pradesh    37.7    52.1   67.4    76.0
Karnataka           33.1    44.3   56.9    68.1
Kerala              75.6    86,2   87.7    91.9
Madhya Pradesh      19.0    28.8   50.3    60.0
Maharashtra         41.0    52.3   67.0    75.4
Manipur             34.6    47.6   60.1    73.1
Meghalaya           37.2    44.8   59.6    73.7
Mizoram             68.6    78.6   86.7    89.0
Nagaland            40.4    54.7   61.5    76.6
Orissa              25.1    34.7   50.5    64.3
Punjab              39.7    50.4   63.4    71.3
Rajasthan           14.0    20.4   43.9    52.6
Sikkim              27.4    46.7   60.4    76.4
Tamil Nadu          40.4    51.3   64.4    73.8
Tripura             38.0    49.6   64.9    83.1
Uttar Pradesh       17.2    25.3   42.2    59.2
West Bengal         36.0    46.5   59.6    71.1
India               77.0    74.0   54.0    47.0

                          Change in %

                    81-91   91-01  01-11
                    (b-a)   (c-b)  (d-c)

Andhra Pradesh      08.6    17.7   09.3
Arunachal Pradesh   15.7    13.8   16.0
Bihar               6.4     10.2   20.2
Delhi               4.4     07.7   06.2
Goa                 12.0    08.3   06.4
Gujarat             10.2    09.2   12.9
Haryana             13.6    15.2   11.0
Himachal Pradesh    14.4    15.3   08.6
Karnataka           11.2    12.6   11.2
Kerala              10.6    01.5   04.2
Madhya Pradesh      09.8    21.5   09.7
Maharashtra         11.3    14.7   08.4
Manipur             12.9    12.5   13.0
Meghalaya           07.6    14.8   14.1
Mizoram             10.0    08.1   02.3
Nagaland            14.3    06.8   15.1
Orissa              09.6    15.8   13.8
Punjab              10.7    13.0   07.9
Rajasthan           06.4    23.5   08.7
Sikkim              19.3    13.7   16.0
Tamil Nadu          10.9    13.1   09.4
Tripura             11.6    15.3   18.2
Uttar Pradesh       08.1    16.9   17.0
West Bengal         10.5    13.0   11.5
India               3.0     20.0   7.0

Table-3: Change in sex ratio for percent rise in female literacy
1981-2011

States                     Change in Sex Ratio

                    1981-1991   1991-2001   2001-2011

Andhra Pradesh      -0.4        0.34        1.61
Arunachal Pradesh   -0.2        3.04        2.31
Bihar               -6.4        1.37        -0.15
Delhi               4.32        -0.78       7.58
Goa                 -0.7        -0.84       2.03
Gujarat             -0.8        -1.41       -0.15
Haryana             -0.4        -0.26       1.64
Himachal Pradesh    0.21        -0.39       0.23
Karnataka           -0.3        0.32        0.8
Kerala              0.38        14.67       6.2
Madhya Pradesh      -0.9        0.38        1.13
Maharashtra         -0.3        -0.81       0.83
Manipur             -1          1.6         1.08
Meghalaya           0.13        1.35        0.99
Mizoram             0.2         2.1         16.52
Nagaland            1.61        3.39        1.46
Orissa              -1          0.06        0.51
Punjab              0.29        -0.61       2.66
Rajasthan           -1.4        0.51        0.69
Sikkim              2.22        -0.23       0.94
Tamil Nadu          -0.3        0.91        1.06
Tripura             -0.1        0.32        0.55
Uttar Pradesh       -0.7        1.3         0.82
West Bengal         0.57        1.31        1.39
India               -0.73       0.44        1.43
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH ARTICLE
Author:Shetty, Anil; Shetty, Shraddha
Publication:International Journal of Medical Science and Public Health
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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