This paper is a preliminary exploration of the trends and spatial variation in gender differentials in adult mortality in India, as also of the related rural-urban differentials. We pay particular attention to female mortality in the two prime reproductive age groups 15-29 and 30-44. The data for the study are taken from the Sample Registration System, available n an annual basis since 1970.
Gender differentials, as well as rural urban differentials, have narrowed down considerably over the period from 1970, but both types of differences persist still. On the whole, the rural-urban differences over this period seem to be much larger than the gender differentials so that rural females still suffer from the double disadvantage of being female and belonging to rural areas.
Of the correlates we considered, all the three, viz., total fertility rate, safe motherhood indices and health care supply are strongly correlated with female mortality especially in the 15-29 age group. What is significant is that these variables are highly correlated within themselves. For instance, in states like Kerala and Punjab where health care provision is good, the variables relating to safe motherhood are also satisfactorily high and fertility levels correspondingly low. In contrast, in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh all these indicators are poor. Surprisingly, a poor correlation is observed between male mortality and health suppy indices.