Revisiting the Devaluation of Daughters in Bangladesh : Continuity or Change?

There exists a large body of literature on regional variations in female mortality relative to male, resulting in sex ratios heavily biased toward men. Amartya Sen has described this as the phenomenon of "missing women," that is, the number of women there would have been in a population if women's chances of survival were similar to those of men. Adverse sex ratios are largely concentrated in specific regions of the world that share common patterns of gender and kinship relations. These include patrilineal principles of descent and inheritance, patriarchal control over family labour and resources, strong restrictions on women's mobility in the public domain, patrilocal residence of the married couple, and the absorption of women and children into the husband's kinship group. South Asia features its own subregional distribution of adverse sex ratios, with marked adversity in the northwest, less adversity in the south and intermediate levels of adversity in the eastern states, including Bangladesh.

This project will investigate the question of sex ratios in Bangladesh. Preliminary analysis of a large survey dataset from the Pathways to Women's Empowerment project indicates a dramatic decline in son preference expressed by respondents. This is accompanied by indifference to the sex of the child rather than strong daughter preference.

The project will involve a more detailed analysis of the survey data on parental attitudes, supplemented by qualitative research to find out what it means. The theoretical rationale for the research is that it will provide a better grasp of the dynamics of social change vis-à-vis gender relations. The policy rationale is that a better grasp of the dynamics of change that lead to greater investment in the survival and well-being of daughters may point the way toward policy levers to promote such change in other parts of the subcontinent.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

End Date

Friday, January 6, 2012


18 months

IDRC Officer

Singh, Navsharan

Total funding

CA$ 128,900


Bangladesh, Central Asia, Far East Asia, South Asia


Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Dr. Naila Kabeer

Project Leader

Dr. Simeen Mahmud


BRAC University

Institution Country


Institution Website