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US study tells Indian policy makers: Larger families discourage households to send children to schools

Counterview Desk
A recent study of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Massachusetts, US, has said that the strong son-preference in India makes to have more children if the first born is a girl, but this adversely affects the children’s school education. Advocating strong need for family planning in order to have higher enrollment and fewer school dropouts, it adds, “Children from larger families are less likely to have ever been enrolled in school”, and this even more true of children belonging to “rural, poorer and low-caste families.”
Authored by Adriana D. Kugler and Santosh Kumar, the study, titled “Preference for Boys, Family Size and Educational Attainment in India”, says that “an extra child in the family reduces schooling by 0.1 years and reduces the probability of ever attending or being enrolled in school by between 1 and 2 percentage points, respectively.”
Analyzed in percentage, the study says, “Children in families with one additional child are 1.8 percentage points less likely to have ever attended school, and the likelihood that they are currently enrolled in school is 1.4 percentage points lower.” It adds, “The probability of ever attending school and being currently enrolled drop by 1.8 and 1.1 percentage points when an additional sibling is added to the family. Consequently, years of schooling fall as well.”
The study uses Indian District Level Household Survey (DLHS) data by restricting samples to households having at least one child, having children aged between five and 21, and mothers who are up to 35 years of age. This, say the researchers, was done to “minimize the possibility that adult children may have already left the household.” This, they add, yielded “a sample of 393,510 children.”
Pointing out that there are “larger effects for rural, poor, and low-caste households as well as for households with illiterate mothers”, the study says, “The impacts of an extra child in terms of reducing enrollment and attendance double and the impact of an extra child on years of schooling increase fourfold for illiterate and poor mothers, suggesting much larger gains from reducing family size in disadvantaged households.”
Giving data, it says, “An extra sibling in low and middle caste households reduces the likelihood of ever attending school by 0.079 and 0.064, respectively, compared to high caste households.” Likewise, the study adds, “Growing up with an extra sibling reduces the likelihood of being currently enrolled by between 0.05 and 0.06 for children in low and middle caste households compared to those in high caste households.”
Coming to rural-urban difference, the study says, “We find that the negative relationship between family size and children’s education is more pronounced among rural households who are severely budget-constrained.”
The study concludes, “Quantifying the causal estimate of family size on child quality is important from a policy perspective. Since the majority of large families in developing countries are poor, less educated, and resource-constrained, our findings can help us better understand why poverty persists and how people can be moved out of poverty.”
“Improving access and uptake of family planning methods and public policies aimed at increasing awareness about the benefits of having a smaller family may help weaken the severity”, the study says, adding, “Policymakers can supplement family planning policies with more investment in education and health in regions and households in order to mitigate the adverse impacts of larger families.”

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