Inequalities in Child Mortality in India: A District-Level Analysis

Prabir C. Bhattacharya & Cornilius Chikwama

Heriot-Watt University,Economics Discussion Papers,November 2012


This paper measures the degree of inequality in child mortality rates across districts in India,using data from the 1981, 1991 and 2001 Indian population censuses. The results show that child mortality is more concentrated in less developed districts in all three census years. Further,between 1981 and 2001, the inequality in child mortality seems to have increased to the advantage of the more developed districts (i.e., there was an increasing concentration of child mortality in less developed districts). However, the inequality in female child mortality rates seems to have declined between 1991 and 2001, even as it increased – albeit at a slower rate than before – for male child mortality rates. In the decomposition analysis, it is found that while a more equitable distribution of medical facilities and safe drinking water across districts did contribute towards reducing inequality in child mortality between 1981 and 1991, different levels of structural change among districts were responsible for a very large part of the inequality in child mortality to the advantage of the more developed districts in all three census years. Other variables which played important roles in increasing inequality included a measure of infrastructure development, female literacy, and a social group status variable. The paper concludes with some brief comments on the policy implications of the findings.