The dynamics of gender and class in access to health care: Evidence from rural Karnataka, India

Aditi Iyer, Gita Sen, Asha George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


In the early 1990s, India embarked upon a course of health sector reform, the impact of which on an already unequal society is now becoming more apparent. This study sought to deepen understanding of equity effects by exploring gender and class dynamics vis-à-vis basic access to health care for self-reported long-term ailments. The authors drew on the results of a cross-sectional household survey in a poor agrarian region of south India to test whether gender bias in treatment-seeking is class-neutral and whether class bias is gender-neutral. They found evidence of "pure gender bias" in non-treatment operating against both non-poor and poor women, and evidence of "rationing bias" in discontinued treatment operating against poor women overall, but with some differences between the poor and poorest households. In poor households, men insulated themselves and passed the entire burden of rationing onto women; but among the poorest, men, like women, were forced to curtail treatment. There were economic class differences in continued, discontinued, and no treatment, but class was a gendered phenomenon operating through women, not men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-554
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Policy
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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