Hindu-Muslim Differentials in Infant and Child Survival in India: Some Unexpected Findings

Alaka Malwade Basu, Cornell University
Lindy Williams, Cornell University
Deladem Kusi-Appouh, Cornell University

Several researchers have commented on the higher fertility of Muslims than Hindus in India, even after adding many socioeconomic controls. Given known fertility-mortality interactions, for this reason alone, one would expect infant and child mortality to also be higher among Muslims, an expectation buttressed by the fact that Muslim women also display so many other predictors of high child mortality - relatively low levels of education, greater social conservatism and larger levels of poverty. But infant and child mortality rates are significantly lower among Muslims, whether one is looking at different states, urban and rural areas separately, over time, and indeed even in populations of Hindu or Muslim origin in Europe. To understand this intriguing finding, we analyze data from the second round of the Indian NFHS. We also look for hints in the qualitative literature on religious differences in norms and practices related to childbearing and childrearing.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 103: Race/Ethnic Differences in Mortality