Fairfield University pilot study finds that India's sex ratio imbalance crisis is being driven by complex family dynamics


Media Advisory

Findings to be released March 13

Image: Impact IndiaWhy: According to the 2011 National Census of India, there were 914 girls born for every 1,000 boys; in some regions reaching as low as 824 girls. These figures are alarming in comparison to the United Nation's 2010 Population Sex Ratio norm of 101.7 males to 100 females. The Indian census numbers therefore show a severe sex ratio imbalance in the nation. The Indian state, numerous global agencies, NGOs and researchers contend that as women become a minority in the population, there is bound to be a detrimental effect on both India's economic development and social stability.

What: "Impact India 2021: Elevating the Value of Women and Girls in Society," a pilot study conducted by Fairfield University in partnership with two Indian Jesuit colleges, explored the critical role that gender plays in family dynamics. The study begins to map pathways to change attitudes about the value of girls and women in society so that this attitudinal shift can be discernible by the next Indian Census of 2021. The report with the complete results will be released on March 13.

The study focused on gender dynamics and found that the sex ratio imbalance crisis in India is a result of many families choosing to have a male child. This crisis is being fueled by complex family pressures, including the belief that boys will be better wage earners, and that boys will be more likely to take care of their aging parents. This study also indicates that elders in the family and husbands prefer a male child; while wives pointed out that they had little choice in the matter.

The study, undertaken in partnership with St. Xavier's in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai, surveyed families within the upper layer of the lower class and lower layer of the middle class. The findings suggest that this sex imbalance ratio - which is on the increase - is likely to be a major impediment to the future development of India.

Who: The pilot study, done in consultation with the Office of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer at the U.S. Department of State, was overseen by Gita Rajan, Ph.D., professor of English and senior research fellow at Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life, and Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., professor of sociology and director of the Center for Faith and Public Life. With an eye toward social justice, the Center's work is in line with the Jesuit mission to ensure dignity for every human person, irrespective of cultures, countries and continents.

Both Fr. Ryscavage and Dr. Rajan are available for interviews and visits in Washington, D.C. and New York City the week of March 12. Contact Meg McCaffrey at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726 or (203) 395-0140.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 5, 2012

Vol. 44, No. 220