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Working Paper No. 13-14

Seeing is Believing - Can Increasing the Number of Female Leaders Reduce Sex Selection in Rural India?
Priti Kalsi
November 2013


Cultural values and traditional views regarding gender roles encourage gender discrimination and the practice of sex selection in India. Increasing political and work force participation of women in India challenges such norms. Exploiting the implementation of an Indian law that required one-third of local political seats to be reserved for women, I investigate the impact of female leadership on sex selection in rural India. I find that higher birth order children are less likely to be male if political seats at the local level have been reserved for women. Additionally, I find that higher birth order female child mortality rates decline once states implement female reservations. After ruling out alternative hypotheses, I argue the underlying mechanism is a change in attitudes due to exposure to female leaders.


JEL classification: J13, J16, I18, O20