Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Cost of Boys vs. Girls in Indian Culture

Everyone wants to gain a daughter in law but no one wants a daughter?

One of the most astonishing things a pardesi has to face about the Indian culture is the assault on the girl child is currently ongoing. While I'm not here to discuss those things, it's no secret that girl babies are aborted, killed, beaten and thrown away in many ways because of their perceived low worth and burden on the parents. While I don't know everything about raising a little Indian girl, this is my outsider opinion on the actual value of raising a boy vs. raising a girl in India. There was no survey done, this is not official research. It is a cost analysis put together based on what I and several other pardesi women know about Indian customs for raising children.

As you can see the expenses to raise boys are more sometimes and girls other times. Pay close attention to how much the wedding expenses add up to though. I think this is why girls are perceived as more expensive. The majority of their expenses revolve around one event. The event where they leave the home - their wedding. Total wedding related expenses for boys = 291910 INR (almost 3 lakh or $5614 US) and for girls =207342 INR (just over 2 lakh or $3987 US).

This chart doesn't include the cost for school, university, power bills and food. Regardless of the child's sex, those cost add up to 3026460 INR. (For my English readers thats 3,026, 460 INR or approx $58,000 US. For my Indian readers that number is 30 lakh 26,460 Rupees.)That leaves the total to raise a boy child from birth to marriage at 3987070 INR (39 lakh 87,070 or approx $76,675 US) and a girl child at 3886323 INR (38 lakh 86,323 or approx $74,737 US).

What I did not factor in is how much the son continues to cost after the marriage. After the wedding, the mans family must pay for the new brides bills and the sons bills and take care of both children until it is time for the parents to retire or until the children begin sharing the expenses. The girls family does not bear that expense. So men really are more expensive as they bring a whole new family into the home in which the parents must pay for. In addition to daily expenses of food and clothing, they also must purchase gifts for her for special occasions and holidays, thus raising the expenses of having a son even further.

These facts and figures DO NOT apply to the pardesi community where (from what I've been told by the girls who helped with sorting traditions) the mans family seems to pay for almost everything. For my wedding, my husband's family paid for all but the gifts my parents sent to his parents. I paid for some things myself because I wanted specific things. Things like this seem to be common in the pardesi community and as such do not compare to the chart above.

What are some expenses I missed?
What are your thoughts on this chart? (Please remember it is not scientific, just an observation.)
**I cannot stress enough that these numbers are averages based on what I found for current prices. I did not use any one class group (low, high, middle). I factored in the lowest and highest prices I could find at several places and then found the average mathematically.

**Special thanks go out to the girls in Desi/Pardesi who helped me with different traditions and which side of the family paid for what at their weddings.**

Some things about the chart:
  • *For the purpose of this chart, I have included the cost of gifts that the family must give to the incoming daughter-in-law upon marriage. I consider that a cost for having a boy. After all, no one would skip this part of tradition right? So therefore, parents must pay this if they have a boy child. 
  • The prices used in this chart are the current average in Punjab. Prices will vary in states/cities with a higher cost of living (like Mumbai for example) or lower cost of living. However, in those instances the prices will all raise or lower proportionately so the overall outcome would be the same.
  • I have not included rent because most families own their homes and thus do not pay rent.
  • I have excluded things like cribs, baby carriers, etc. as these were not the norm. 
  • Shoes are calculated at 2 pair per year of life for regular shoes and 1 pair of flip flops (thongs) per year
  • Men typically get a motorcycle and/or a car, women typically get a moped. I have yet to see the brides family purchase a car for the groom anywhere other than Bollywood movies. I have always seen the grooms family purchase the car so therefore I assigned the cost to the boys.
  • Barber shop/beauty parlor includes weekly haircuts for men, shaving and bleaching for the wedding. For women it includes monthly haircuts, threading, and the one time cost of wedding mehendi, hair, make-up and mani/pedi.
  • Most prices are figured using the bazaar prices as that majority visit their bazaar rather than nationwide branded chains.
  • Clothing and jewelry prices were taken from several online stores, my own personal knowledge of our bazaar and our mall. I averaged the lowest and highest prices from each place to get the numbers in the chart. The cost for tailoring is not included.
  • Wedding jewelry includes the mangalsutra, chura, bridal set, hair pieces, nose pin, engagement rings and payal.
  • Wedding ensemble includes the male's sherwani and suit and an average for the woman between a lehenga and sari plus the cost of one silk suit. Additional items factored in include the cloth for the pink turban, sehra, kalira and the special dupatta that is draped over the bride.
  • Monetary gifts (shagun) are not included as they vary too greatly and come from more than just the parents of the bride and groom.
  • Home furnishings include beds, chairs, refrigerator, dishes, etc. The typical things a bride is expected to bring to her new home for her own comfort. I did not include AC. For men, I did include the cost of his bed once he's too old to sleep with his parents and a desk for school work.


  1. You should have included the schooling fee, in very traditional India parents will shell a huge amount of money to educate a boy in the best way simply because they will see it as an investment, the boy that has a higher education will attract prospective brides from higher background that will enhance their status and bring a fatter dowry, not to mention a high paying salary job mean they will have a nice "pention" to live on in their old days when the son's duty to support his parents will kick in. The parent's of a girl child see education as a waste considering the girl will leave the family after marriage.
    So to a boy's family it doesn't even really matter how much more they pay for their son, they see it as investment, the boy stays in the family, the boy brings a girl home who in turn will bring money in at the time of the wedding. The way Indians traditionnaly see it is even if little is spent on a girl, it's still a loss as they are giving her away at the time of her marriage and no return comes to them. Sad but true, boys are seen as a life insurance policy, pay higher premium when they are kids,and the returns on those premiums will be maximised in old age, this is a sick form of emotional blackmail leverage tool too. Parents feel their kids owe it to them for all the "sacrifice" they did for them in their youth.

  2. Thanks Cyn. I know why they do it, but it still doesn't make sense to me for them to think this way. If they have a boy child, they have to understand and expect this DIL to come into the home and she will be a bigger financial burden than a daughter. (IMO) So their own daughter won't cost as much in the long run as having a DIL who spends money for life. I just feel it's a bad way of thinking about things. Maybe if they didn't view daughters as such a burden, these daughters might just come back and do more for them in their senior years. These women might not have to suffer after leaving their parents home. If they felt more valuable as a child, they wouldn't let abuse happen as easily. I know parents still bond with their daughters I just don't think I will truly ever understand this ideal that boys are better than girls or cheaper to raise than girls. I try, but I just can't understand their reasoning.

  3. In Indian families, even after a daughter is married off, the parents continue to give expensive gifts (gold, clothes, cash etc.) to her and her in-law family on festivals and other big occasions like birth of a baby etc. By the same token, a daughter in-law continues to bring those gifts from her parents. You have to account for that into the cost structure.

    The families where you saw the boy's family buying the car could have been buying it with the cash given to them by the bride's parents. It is very common for the bride's parents to give huge amounts of cash/money to the groom's family.

    Once you take these into account, the cost of raising girls goes way up.

    Also, in some communities, having a girl is considered to be shameful because then the father and her brothers will have to bow in front of the girl's husband and in-laws. They consider that shameful and a big burden. This kind of thinking is common in Rajput communities.

  4. Yes, I think most Indian families see daughters as 'money lost' as daughters are 'given away' to other families as 'daughter in laws'. Therefore daughters are seen as a 'bad investment' with all the money spent on their upbringing & no return.

  5. Thanks for your comment. I wasn't aware of the gifts to the daughter after the marriage. I'm wondering if this is true across all classes because I've not seen it in the few families I know in Amritsar. (I only know of about 5 married women whose parents are still living.)

    It's quite fascinating that you mention the girls father bowing in front of the boy in Rajput communities. I haven't been exposed to that at all and it's very different from anything I've heard the other pardesi's discuss. Very fascinating indeed. I think I'm going to do some more research on this. Thanks for sharing!

  6. That's so sad. You would think the joy and relationship of having a daughter would matter more to them than the money.