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31 Jul 2015 11:24 AM, Insights Aditi Kadam

Gender ratio is highly skewed amongst juveniles

Slight improvement in younger children

According to the Consumer Pyramids survey, the gender ratio in India is a lot worse than what the Census results’ 943 in early 2011. According to the Consumer Pyramids survey, the ratio was much lower at 879 during September - December 2014. The gender ratio in the Census results was alarmingly low. As a result, the even lower gender ratio seen in the Consumer Pyramids survey is even more alarming.

This substantially lower gender ratio seen in Consumer Pyramids, at first, raises a fleeting doubt about the reliability of the survey. But, of all the variables captured by any survey, gender is perhaps, the most reliable. For all practical purposes, it is an unambiguous, binary variable that is simple to measure accurately, unlike a variable like income, educational qualification or occupation.

Consumer Pyramids records the gender of about 700,000 individuals from 158,000 households. The sample is very large and therefore cannot be doubted. Given the large sample and the simple variable under consideration should we worry about the reliability of the results or should we worry about the low gender ratio it indicates?

The age distribution of the gender ratio illuminates. We see the ratio to be the most skewed amongst juveniles. For the age group 15-25 years, the gender ratio is 771. Then, the gender ratio improves dramatically. For the age group 25-30 it is 979 and for 30-40 it is over 1,000. It is perhaps then, not a coincidence that atrocities against young women, mostly around 15 to 25 years have increased in recent years. The steep fall in the gender ratio to 771 for this age group makes them vulnerable.

Assuming no significant change in age-specific mortality in recent times, it is possible then, that the gender ratio for infants and near-infants worsened about 25 years ago compared to earlier times. So, the infant gender ratio could have started deteriorating from the mid 1990s and continued till around 2005. This could have been a terrible time for the girl child. Reverberations of these devastating times can be seen even today in the atrocities committed against women.

The good news seen in the Consumer Pyramids survey is that the ratio has improved in the last ten years. The gender ratio for the age group between 10 and 15 years is 844. It improves to 854 for age group 5-10 years and then to 892 for children less than 5 years of age. This is still a far cry from the gender equality we need. But, it raises hopes that the future could be better than the not-so-distant past.