|Missing Women by Age|
Siwan Anderson, Debraj Tay, Review of Economic Studies (2010) 77, 1262–1300 (Hat tip: MR)
Our study of excess female deaths by age and disease yields the following findings. For developing countries today, the epidemiological transition—the changing composition of disease— explains very little of excess female mortality. At young ages, the Group 1 diseases are largely responsible for missing women. The opposite is true at older ages; Group 2 diseases are responsible.
They note that the United States, at the beginning of the 20th century similarly had a large group of missing adult women. In the case of the United States it may have been changes in the death rate from tuberculosis that caused the demographic deficit (p.1287).
Although there were certain constants across regions, there were also a number of regional peculiarities
In India, communicable, preventable diseases explain missing girls in childhood. Maternal mortality and injuries are important at the reproductive ages. Cardiovascular deaths are an overwhelmingly strong source of missing women at older ages in India and dominate all other sources of excess female mortality. Finally, congenital deaths at infancy, as well as Injuries, account for a suspiciously large total of excess female deaths in India. These excess deaths easily outnumber maternal mortality.
In sub-Saharan Africa, missing girls also die prematurely from preventable diseases: malaria is a primary killer. As to India, maternal deaths are also important. But the dominant source of missing women in sub-Saharan Africa is HIV/AIDS. It accounts for well over a third of excess female deaths in the region. (That said, sub-Saharan African percentages of missing women are still comparable to those in India and China even if the excess female deaths from HIV/AIDS is entirely ignored.)
In China, by contrast, the dominant source of missing females is prenatal. That said, there are excess female deaths in childhood which are due to respiratory and perinatal causes. To us, these are warning signs that active female discrimination in China possibly stretches beyond the prenatal. Indeed, a large chunk of missing women in China, as well as in India, are found after the age of 45. In China, these excess deaths from Group 2 diseases account for close to 40% of the flow of all missing women. The corresponding figure for India is also 40%. These numbers point to the importance of studying the conditions of elderly women in India and
China. As a final note, we observe some similarities between age-specific percentages of missing women in the historical United States (ca. 1900) and India or sub-Saharan Africa today.
What I tend to take from this is that while cultural patterns are important, it can also be said in general that life in a non-modern setting can be very difficult on women. Deaths during childbirth are of course a unique danger to woman, but there appears to other areas, often region specific, which uniquely affect the mortality women. Although they don't mention it in the quotation above, they do discuss the differing rates of suicide between men and women in China as being indicative of a problem.