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Impact of an employment guarantee scheme on utilisation of maternal healthcare services: Results from a natural experiment in India

Divya Parmar and Aneesh Banerjee

Social Science & Medicine, 2019, vol. 222, issue C, 285-293

Abstract: We assess the impact of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme, the world's largest workfare scheme, on healthcare utilisation – specifically maternal healthcare. The primary objective of NREG is to improve the income of rural households by guaranteeing 100 days of employment. We expect that by improving household income, thereby reducing some of the financial barriers, such as out-of-pocket payments, NREG can increase utilisation of maternal health services. Using a nationally representative household survey and a difference-in-differences approach that exploits the phased rollout of the scheme, we estimate the impact of NREG on utilisation of maternal health services: mainly deliveries at health facilities. We find that NREG did not increase overall facility deliveries, even though it led to an increase in deliveries at public facilities. There is weak evidence to suggest that deliveries at private facilities reduced due to NREG. Furthermore, sub-group analyses reveal that among poorer households, who are more likely to participate in NREG, there is a reduction in facility deliveries while home deliveries increased. Among richer households, NREG increased deliveries at public facilities. There was no impact on households belonging to marginalised castes. We conclude by discussing the possible mechanisms for these effects and its impact on equity in healthcare utilisation.

Keywords: Healthcare utilisation; Employment; India; Difference-in-differences; Facility delivery; Workfare; Equity; Maternal health (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:222:y:2019:i:c:p:285-293