Unintended Consequences of Women’s Inheritance Rights on Female Mortality in India

    1. Study Information


      This section discusses the 2015 article by Daniel Rosenblum, “Unintended Consequences of Women’s Inheritance Rights on Female Mortality in India.”1

      This study uses the Indian National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) from 1992 to 1993, 1998 to 1999, and 2005 to 2006. The NFHS are large data sets with demographic and health information at the household level. Each NFHS round surveys a large group of married women age 15–49, and the surveys are representative at the state level. The 1992–93 round surveyed 89,777 ever-married women, the 1998–99 round surveyed 89,199 ever-married women, and the 2005–6 round surveyed 124,385 women age 15–49 (including never-married women). The 303,361 women in the combined NFHS are asked for their full birth histories, including when children were born and, if a child died, the age at death. The combined NFHS surveys contain information on 373,521 female children of which 45,904 died by the time of the survey. The NFHS data sets are combined in order to have sufficient power to detect changes in mortality and fertility rates as well as have a large enough range of children’s years of birth to cover the periods before and after the reforms.

    2. Questions posed
      • What is the impact on daughters of reforms to the inheritance legislation that provides daughters and sons with equal inheritance rights?
    3. Description of intervention

      The intervention was a change in the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) to provide daughters and sons with equal rights to inherit ancestral property. The HSA of 1956 provided inheritance rights to ancestral property to sons only. Five states, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharastra, and Karnataka, amended this law in 1976, 1986, 1989, and 1994 to include equal inheritance rights to ancestral land for daughters. The Succession Law was amended nationally in 2005 to grant daughters equal inheritance rights to ancestral land. The law only applies to intestate succession and only applies to Hindus.

    4. Context of findings

      In India, there is a strong preference for sons. Patrilineal/patrilocal patterns are common. Commonly, daughters’ share of family wealth is provided in dowry (given to her husband and his family) and sons inherit land. This study argues that one unintended consequence of the amendment to the HSA is that daughters become more expensive if they also receive a share of inheritance, which may lead to higher child mortality for girls.

    5. Key findings

      The estimates show that there was a small but meaningful increase in female mortality caused by the inheritance rights reforms.

    1. Rosenblum, D. (2015). Unintended Consequences of Women's Inheritance Rights on Female Mortality in India. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 63(2), 223-248.