Ridhi Kashyap- Nuffield College, Univ of Oxford
Abstract: In contexts of entrenched cultural preference for male offspring, such as in parts of northwest and central India, growing access to prenatal sex determination through ultrasound has enabled the practice of sex-selective abortion. This practice has led to `missing women', with the sex ratio at birth (SRB) becoming distorted with unnaturally more boys born relative to girls. SRB distortions and their variations across different states in India have been widely documented, but data on state-level trends are often erratic and not up-to-date. Moreover, the timeline of diffusion of ultrasound technology is less documented, and so is the role of online information in shaping the decision to practice sex-selective abortion. We use information on Google searches related to ultrasound and sonography, both at the national level and at the level of Indian states, to assess whether these data track the regional and temporal dynamics of SRBs, complementing existing estimates and developing now-casts. For the 2011-2014 period, we find that states with distorted SRBs tend to display a relatively high search activity for ultrasound. Drawing on between-state variation in ultrasound search intensity for the period between 2011 and 2013, we 'now-cast' the 2014 SRB using Google search data. For wealthier states, we find that Google search performs better than lagged variable models in predicting the SRB, highlighting its potential role for indirect demographic estimation.