Caste, Kinship and Sex-ratios In India

Tanika Chakraborty, Washington University in St. Louis
Sukkoo Kim, Washington University in St. Louis

The population of modern India is plagued by “missing women,” but this condition has deep historical roots. In this paper, we examine the sex-ratios in India at the turn of the twentieth century by caste and language at the district-level. We index the unique caste data from the 1901 census of India using the detailed ethnographic documentation of the British officials. We find that the female to male ratio varied inversely by caste-rank, was significantly lower in the North, was lower among the northern Indo-Aryan speaking peoples and varied by geographic characteristics such as rainfall and soil conditions and was negatively correlated with the length of British rule. We suggest that these systematic variances in sex-ratios are likely to be related to the strength of women’s bargaining power within marriage and kin-group which, in turn, was correlated with variations in kinship systems and their role in the economy.

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Presented in Session 174: Variability in Race/Ethnic Classification Schemas and its Effects on Demographic Patterns