Gender Gaps in Child Nutritional Status in Punjab, Pakistan

Theresa Thompson Chaudhry, Maha Khan, Azka Sarosh Mir


Child nutritional status has improved over the period 2008 to
2014 in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province with a population of over
100 million, as rates of severe stunting have declined by 8.6 percentage
points and average height-for-age (HFA) has increased by 0.19 standard
deviations. However, the nutritional status of children in Punjab is
still quite poor in comparison to many Sub-Saharan African countries.
Recent research from India suggests eldest son preference and son-biased
fertility stopping patterns negatively impacts the nutritional status of
other children in the household, especially daughters. In order to test
for latent gender discrimination in Punjab, Pakistan, a culturally
similar neighbour, we apply a finite mixture model to a sample of
couples with at least one child of each gender, though we do not find
any. We do find, however, that when there is a larger share of children
without an elder brother, that is, there is no son or a son is born
after several daughters, that the incidence of stunting is higher and
average HFA z-score of a couple’s children is lower, using an OLS
analysis. This suggests that some families might be increasing their
fertility beyond the number of children they can support in pursuit of
sons. In this way, couples’ preferences regarding the gender composition
of their children can have subsequent effects on the long- term
nutritional status of their children. JEL Classification: I2, I14, I15
Keywords: Pakistan, Height-for-Age, Gender, Finite Mixture

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