Sociology ETDs


Nafisa Halim

Publication Date



My dissertation addresses the developmental paradox' of rapid gains in human development in Bangladesh against the backdrop of a social scientific literature that portrays two of the country's endemic features—Islam and illiberal politics—as inveterate obstacles to their achievement. I use data from household surveys conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies in collaboration with the World Bank in 1991-2 and 1998-9, and identify the distal determinants of the Bangladeshi mortality decline. I find female education has a linear effect and household income has a curvilinear effect on infant and child mortality. Why is the relationship between income and child mortality curvilinear (quadratic)? And why is female education improving in an allegedly hostile Muslim environment? The survival analysis of infant and child mortality in Bangladesh finds that the very poor and rich households are relatively more successful than their middle-income counterparts in suppressing deaths among children. Results suggest that by targeting transfers of nutrition and health services at very poor households, state redistributive programs might have offset poverty-induced threats to human development among beneficiary families but left the non-beneficiaries—many of whom are still poor—to fend (or in many cases not fend) for themselves. Welfare gains from these 'pro-poor' redistributive programs are thus ambivalent. Furthermore, the Bi-variate Probit analysis of female educational attainment finds that educational attainment is possible with female educational subsidies as long as the process of attainment delays but does not deny the importance of marriage and reproduction in Bangladesh's pronatalist culture. The impact of educational subsidies is mediated by birth order, however. While subsidies appear to have little effect upon first-born girls, who face overwhelming pressure to marry and reproduce at a young age, they seem to have a profound effect on offspring of later parities, who tend to stay at school while their older female sibling(s) await marriage—and thereby raise the prospects for human development down the road. Overall, I conclude that Bangladesh's gender-sensitive redistributive development policies have contributed to rapid infant and child mortality decline. Ultimately, my dissertation reveals that Muslim societies and cultures are more permeable than the standard portrait allows.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Tiano, Susan

Second Committee Member

Waitzkin, Howard

Third Committee Member

Sauer, Christine


Economic assistance, Domestic--Bangladesh, Bangladesh--Economic policy, Bangladesh--Social policy, Bangladesh--Economic conditions, Bangladesh--Social conditions



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