A new study conducted by Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life has dug deeper into India’s gender ratio imbalance crisis to find that it is being fueled by complex family pressures, including the belief that boys will be better wage earners, and that men will more likely take better care of their aging parents. The study also indicates that elders in the family and often husbands prefer a male child, while many wives pointed out that their voices were not being heard and had little choice in the matter.
Fairfield University’s innovative survey examined how gender dynamics and family pressures in India lead to the birth of a significantly greater number of boys than girls. The study suggests that male child preference is quite prevalent and the gender ratio imbalance – which is on the increase and was evident in the 2011 Indian National Census – is likely to be a major impediment to the future development of India.
Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage, professor of sociology and director of The Center for Faith and Public Life, conducted the study and recently sat down for an interview with National Jesuit News.
According to the 2011 National Census of India, there were 914 girls born for every 1,000 boys; in some regions reaching as low as 824 girls. These figures are alarming in comparison to the United Nation’s 2010 Population Sex Ratio norm of 101.7 males to 100 females. The Indian census numbers therefore show a severe gender ratio imbalance in the nation. The Indian government, numerous global agencies, NGOs and researchers contend that as women become a minority in the population, there is bound to be a detrimental effect on both India’s economic development and social stability.
Undertaken in partnership with two Jesuit schools in India – St. Xavier College in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai – the research also found that girls are being systematically devalued in society. Yet, the findings also revealed many wives responding that daughters would be better caregivers than sons.
Fairfield’s researchers surveyed the upper layer of the lower class and the lower layer of the middle class. The assumption was that those families could be the part of the population that can make changes in their attitudes towards the son preference practice, a change that could be discernible by the next census, in 2021.
For more information on the “Impact India” study, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/cfpl/cfpl_gsri.html.