Kerala sees sharp fall in sex ratio at birth despite being best in overall category

Bihar and Maharashtra are other major states where sex ratio at birth declined 

By Jhumki Kundu, Deepak Pihal, Gaurav Suresh Gunnal
Published: Monday 08 February 2021
Sex ratio at birth saw the sharpest fall in Kerala: NFHS-5

Sex ratio at birth in Kerala saw the sharpest fall among major states in the last five years, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) report. The southern state’s sex ratio reduced to 951 in 2019-20 from 1,047 in 2015-16, NFHS data showed.

This is despite the fact that Kerala had the highest overall sex ratio — 1,121 — among major states, up from 1,049 during NFHS-4. Only the Union territory (UT) of Lakshadweep had a higher overall sex ratio (1,187) among the 22 states and UTs covered by NFHS-5.

Sex ratio in India is defined as the number of female births for every 1,000 male births.

The ratio also worsened in Bihar (934 to 908), Goa (966 to 838), Himachal Pradesh (937 to 875), Maharashtra (924 to 913), Meghalaya (1,009 to 989), Nagaland (953 to 945) and Daman and Diu (983 to 817) in the same period.

Among major states and UTs, sex ratio at birth improved in Karnataka (910 to 978), Andhra Pradesh (914 to 934), West Bengal (960 in NFHS-4 to 973 in NFHS-5), Assam (929 to 964), Gujarat (906 to 955), Jammu & Kashmir (923 to 976). 

Sex ratio at birth is not affected by factors like infanticide and under-reporting of female births, and so, it is considered the most accurate indicator of prenatal sex selection.

The ratio has an impact on the ‘doubling time’ as well as sex composition of a population. It affects the youth population (defined as 0-14 years in the report) the most since this age group is less subject to mortality and migration.

All districts of Kerala showed a decline in sex ratio at birth except Alappuzha, Kollam, Kasaragod and Kozhikode. In districts such as Idukki and Thrissur, the sex ratio at birth reduced by more than 20 per cent from NFHS-4.

The rural-urban disparity in sex ratio at birth was also observed in the data. The ratio was 983 in urban areas and 922 in rural areas, according to NFHS-5. 

Experts believe high female literacy has a favourable influence on sex ratios. Kerala’s case, however, defies this notion. The state has a female literacy rate of 98.3 per cent, a relatively high proportion, according to the NFHS-5 data.

Complications in pregnancy, such as fetal death or preterm birth, may have been linked with advanced maternal age. Mothers who were 40 years or older had the lowest sex ratios among all childbearing women in the USA, showed data from American National Vital Statistics Report, 2020 that studied four million annual births between 1940 and 2002. 

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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