Gender Bias in China, South Korea and India, 1920-90: Effects of War, Famine and Fertility Decline

World Bank Publications

June 1999 - The proportions of girls 'missing' rose sharply in these countries during times of war, famine, and fertility decline. Resulting shortages of wives improved the treatment of adult women without reducing discrimination against daughters or increasing women's autonomy. The latter goals can be reached only with fundamental changes in women's family position-changes that are taking place only slowly. Kinship systems in China, the Republic of Korea, and North India have similar features that generate discrimination against girls, and these countries have some of the highest proportions of girls 'missing' in the world. Das Gupta and Li document how the excess mortality of girls was increased by war, famine, and fertility decline-all of which constrained household resources-between 1920 and 1990. Of the three countries, China experienced the most crises during this period (with civil war, invasion, and famine). The resulting excess mortality of girls in China offset the demographic forces making for a surplus of wives as overall mortality rates declined. India had the quietest history during this period, and consequently followed the expected pattern of a growing surplus of available wives. These changes in sex ratios had substantial social ramifications. The authors hypothesize that these demographic factors: ° Encouraged the continuation of brideprice in China, while in India there was a shift to dowry. ° Influenced the extent and manifestations of violence against women. An oversupply of women is the worst scenario for women, as there are fewer constraints to domestic violence. A shortage of women leads to better treatment of wives, as people become more careful not to lose a wife. However in situations of shortage, a small proportion of women may be subject to new types of violence such as being kidnapped for marriage. Ironically, then, higher levels of discrimination against girls can help reduce violence against women. When women are in short supply, their treatment improves. But their autonomy can increase only with fundamental changes in their family position, changes that are taking place only slowly. This paper-a product of Poverty and Human Resources, Development Research Group-is part of a larger effort in the group to study social institutions and development outcomes. Monica Das Gupta may be contacted at
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World Bank Publications
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Dec 31, 1999
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"Public health services, which reduce a population's exposure to disease through such measures as sanitation and vector control, are an essential part of a country's development infrastructure. In the industrial world and East Asia, systematic public health efforts raised labor productivity and life expectancies well before modern curative technologies became widely available, and helped set the stage for rapid economic growth and poverty reduction. The enormous business and other costs of the breakdown of these services are illustrated by the current global epidemic of avian flu, emanating from poor poultry-keeping practices in a few Chinese villages. For various reasons, mostly of political economy, public funds for health services in India have been focused largely on medical services, and public health services have been neglected. This is reflected in a virtual absence of modern public health regulations and of systematic planning and delivery of public health services. Various organizational issues also militate against the rational deployment of personnel and funds for disease control. There is strong capacity for dealing with outbreaks when they occur, but not to prevent them from occurring. Impressive capacity also exists for conducting intensive campaigns, but not for sustaining these gains on a continuing basis after the campaign. This is illustrated by the near eradication of malaria through highly organized efforts in the 1950s, and its resurgence when attention shifted to other priorities such as family planning. This paper reviews the fundamental obstacles to effective disease control in India and indicates new policy thrusts that can help overcome these obstacles. "-- World Bank web site.
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