Does Increased Access Increase Equality? Gender and Child Health Investments in India

Emily Oster

NBER Working Paper No. 12743
Issued in December 2006
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies Program, Health Care Program

Policymakers often argue that increasing access to health care is one crucial avenue for decreasing gender inequality in the developing world. Although this is generally true in the cross section, time series evidence does not always point to the same conclusion. This paper analyzes the relationship between access to child health investments and gender inequality in those health investments in India. A simple theory of gender-biased parental investment suggests that gender inequality may actually be non-monotonically related to access to health investments. At low levels of availability, investment in girls and boys is low but equal; as availability increases, boys get investments first, creating inequality. As availability increases further, girls also receive investments and equality is restored. I test this theory using data on the relationship between gender balance in vaccinations and the availability of "Health Camps" in India. I find support for a non-monotonic relationship. This result may shed light on the contrast between the cross-sectional and time-series evidence on gender and development, and may provide guidance for health policy in developing countries.

download in pdf format
   (278 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12743

Published: Oster, Emily. "Does Increased Access Increase Equality? Gender and Child Health Investments in India." Journal of Development Economics 89, 1 (May 2009): 62-76. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Jayachandran and Kuziemko w15041 Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less Than Boys? Evidence and Implications for Child Health in India
Jensen w16021 Economic Opportunities and Gender Differences in Human Capital: Experimental Evidence for India
Datar, Ghosh, and Sood w13649 Mortality Risks, Health Endowments, and Parental Investments in Infancy: Evidence from Rural India
Barcellos, Carvalho, and Lleras-Muney w17781 Child Gender And Parental Investments In India: Are Boys And Girls Treated Differently?
Campa and Goldberg w5139 Investment, Pass-Through and Exchange Rates: A Cross-Country Comparison
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us