Discrimination in the world against women doesn't only happen in the board room or office, it can start earlier than birth and can have long term implications for the health and livelihood of women around the world. Research on pregnancies in India and other male-centric countries has indicated that women in such countries are more likely to have proper prenatal care when they were pregnant with boys rather than girls. 

"It paints a pretty dire picture of what's happening," said Leah Lakdawala, Michigan State University assistant professor of economics.

Dr. Lakdawala and Prashant Bharadwaj of the University of California, San Diego analyzed 30,000 Indians and found that women pregnant with boys were more likely to go to prenatal checkups with doctors, take iron supplements, deliver the baby in a medical facility and receive tetanus shots.

Each one of those actions significantly reduces the chance that a female child will be born health and go on to lead a productive life. Tetanus is actually the leading cause of newborns in India and the study states that mothers who had not received their tetanus vaccination were more likely to deliver babies that were underweight and more likely to die than babies born to vaccinated mothers.

The researchers looked at other countries where there was a male-dominated culture and found that China, Bangladesh and Pakistan had evidence of sex-discrimination before babies had even been born. Interestingly, in countries that were not considered 'male-dominated' no divide between prenatal care for male and female babies existed.

Dr. Lakdawala stated that even though it is illegal in India for women to learn the sex of their baby from a doctor's ultrasound examination and sex-selective abortions are also illegal, both practices are common.  She continued that even in cases where women do not get an abortion based on the sex of their unborn child, they may neglect the baby before it is even born.

"We know that children born at higher birth weights go to school for longer periods and have higher wages as adults, so the future implications here are pretty serious," Lakdawala concluded.

 

The research published in the Journal of Human Resources can be found here