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Deforestation and infant mortality: Evidence from Indonesia

Averi Chakrabarti

Economics & Human Biology, 2021, vol. 40, issue C

Abstract: Factors expected to change concurrently with forest loss—such as economic activity and air pollution—shape human health in different ways, making it difficult to ex ante predict the net impact of deforestation. This paper investigates the infant mortality effects of prenatal exposure to high biomass forest loss in Indonesia, a country with rich forest reserves increasingly being subjected to high levels of deforestation. Indonesia officially bans clearing in areas with high biomass natural forests (referred to henceforth as ‘protected forests’), yet these forests face illegal logging. The analysis uses a fixed effects approach, essentially tracking how mortality responds to protected forest cover changes over time within districts. Results suggest that protected forest loss favors survival among all infants. However, there is variation in the protected forest loss-infant mortality relationship by pregnancy order or gravidity—while children born from women’s higher order pregnancies are less likely to die when exposed to deforestation, children born from first pregnancies experience an increase in their risk of death. Potential mechanisms such as overall air pollution, economic activity and perinatal health care do not appear to explain the gravidity-specific effects of deforestation in protected areas. However, the observed pattern of results suggests that effects are being channeled through malaria—the disease, which is likely to increase with forest loss, tends to disproportionately infect women during their first pregnancy, thus causing greater harm to the children born from these pregnancies.

Keywords: Deforestation; Infant mortality; Indonesia; Health; Environment; Pregnancy order (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I10 I18 J13 O13 Q23 Q57 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2020.100943

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