The 'missing women' dilemma in India has sparked great interest in investigating gender discrimination in the provision of health care in the country. No studies, however, have directly examined discrimination in health-care financing strategies in the case of severe illness of sons versus daughters. In this paper, we hypothesize that households who face tight budget constraints are more likely to spend their meager resources on hospitalization of boys rather than girls. We use the 60th round of the Indian National Sample Survey (2004) and a multinomial logit model to test this hypothesis and to throw some light on this important but overlooked issue. The results reveal that boys are much more likely to be hospitalized than girls. When it comes to financing, the gap in the usage of household income and savings is relatively small, while the gender gap in the probability of hospitalization and usage of more onerous financing strategies is very high. Ceteris paribus, the probability of boys to be hospitalized by financing from borrowing, sale of assets, help from friends, etc. is much higher than that of girls. Moreover, in line with our theoretical framework, the results indicate that the gender gap intensifies as we move from the richest to poorest households.
(c) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.