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Son Preference and Child Under Nutrition in the Arab Countries: Is There a Gender Bias against Girls?
Authors: Mesbah Fathy Sharaf, Ahmed Shoukry Rashad, and Elhussien Ibrahim Mansour
Source: Middle East Development Journal, 11(2): 199-219; DOI: 10.1080/17938120.2019.1664837
Topic(s): Child health
Fertility preferences
Son preference
Country: Africa
Published: SEP 2019
Abstract: Although son preference has been demonstrated in the MENA region with different manifestations and at several phases of human development, the literature remains sparse as far as studies examining the early childhood phase are concerned. The current study aims to explore the presence of a gender bias in child nutrition status and its association with maternal son preference in three Arab countries; namely, Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. Child nutritional status is measured using the Height-for-Age z-score (HAZ). To examine the presence of gender bias across the entire nutritional distribution, we utilized a quantile regression framework. We use data from the most recent rounds of the Demographic and Health Survey on a nationally representative sample of children aged 0–4 years. Descriptive statistics show that 21.5% of the mothers demonstrate son preference in Yemen compared to 19.10% in Jordan and 13.26% in Egypt. Results of the baseline OLS model demonstrate a robust pro-girl nutrition bias in the three countries. However, results of the quantile regression model show that this pro-girl nutrition bias is only prevalent at the lower segment of the conditional HAZ distribution for Jordan and Yemen and is prevalent across the whole conditional HAZ distribution for Egypt. We also find no statistically significant association between maternal son preference and gender bias in child nutrition in the three countries. Although son preference is manifested in several phases of human development in the MENA region, the current study finds no nutritional bias against girls in the examined countries at early childhood. KEYWORDS: Child malnutrition, son preference, socio-demographic characteristics, quantile regression, Egypt. Jordan, Yemen