#India – Sex ratio slides as mom’s age goes up

NEW DELHI: Child sex selection seems to go up as the age of the mother does, just released data from Census 2011 shows. The sex ratio among children born to young mothers in the 15-19 age group was the highest after which there was a steady decline till the 45-49 age group. This pattern held true across the country with no exception seen in any state, whether in rural or urban areas.

The latest census data on births that happened in the year preceding the survey, showed that the ratio of the number of girls to 1,000 boys, born to mothers in the 15-19 age group was 938, way higher than the sex ratio of 899 for all children born during the year.

Almost 21 million or about 2.08 crore children were born in the year before the census survey. The data showed that the sex ratio declined as the age of the mothers increased, falling from a sex ratio of 927 and 897 in the 20-24 and the 25-29 age groups respectively to just 856 and 824 in the 40-44 and 45-49 age group.

Since natural causes cannot explain this pattern, it appears that this could be because in the younger age group, where many of the children would be first-borns, there would be greater tolerance for girl children. But with advancing birth order and age of the mother, the pressure to produce a son would increase and hence there were greater chances of families doing away with female babies. Interestingly, even in states with the best sex ratios, this pattern of a steep decline in the ratio with increasing age of the mother held true.

Almost 63% of the children born were to mothers between the ages 20-29, the most productive ages. Children born to mothers beyond 30 years of age accounted for just 30.7%. However, despite children born to mothers in the 20-29 age group having a better sex ratio than children born to older mothers, it affected the overall sex ratio pulling it down significantly.

The sex ratio jumped to 883 in the 50+ age group. But the nearly two lakh children born to mothers aged 50 years and more constituted barely 1% of the total children born. Children born to mothers less than 15 years of age also had a sex ratio of 881, similar to those born to mothers aged 50+. However, only about 59,000 children were born to mothers less than 15 years and accounted for a meagre 0.3%. Both these groups, therefore, did not significantly affect the overall numbers

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