Indian families selectively aborting girls, says U of T researcher
Eager to have at least one son
New research published Online First and in an upcoming Lancet shows that, in Indian families in which the first child has been a girl, more and more parents are aborting their second child if prenatal testing shows it to be a girl, so they can ensure at least one child in their family will be a boy. These declines in girl to boy ratios are larger in better-educated and in richer households than in illiterate and poorer households, and now imply that most people in India live in states where selective abortion of girls is common.
The research was led by Professor Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health Research, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and colleagues from India, including the former registrar-general of India, Dr. Jayant K Banthia.
The 2011 Indian census revealed about 7.1 million fewer girls than boys aged 0-6 years, a notable increase in the gap of 6-million fewer girls recorded in the 2001 census and 4.2 million fewer girls recorded in the 1991 census. In this study, the authors analyzed census data to determine absolute numbers of selective abortions and examined over 250,000 births from national surveys to estimate differences in the girl-boy ratio for second births in families in which the first-born child had been a girl.
They found that this girl-boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005; an annual decline of 0.52 per cent. Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl-boy ratio for the second child over the study period, strongly suggesting that families, particularly those that are more wealthy and educated, are selectively aborting girls if their firstborn child is also a girl.