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An Age Profile Perspective on Two Puzzles in Global Child Health: the Indian Enigma and Economic Growth

Anaka Aiyar and Joseph Cummins

No 202019, Working Papers from University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics

Abstract: We provide an empirical perspective and two classes of regression models that make progress on differentiating between two types of determinants of child health: health endowment effects provided to the child at birth; and health investment effects determined by the post-birth stream of health inputs provided to the child and the productivity of those investments. We apply the framework to two existing puzzles in the child health demography literature: the apparent lack of strong correlation between economic growth and child height-for-age z-score (HAZ); and the Indian Enigma, where Indian children are on average less tall than similarly economically situated African children. In the context of the Indian Enigma, we find that the Indian-African child HAZ gap (between 0.4sd and 0.5sd) is present immediately after birth and maintains a similar magnitude across the first three years of life. We interpret this as evidence that causes affecting health endowments likely explain the greater part of the Indian Enigma. We also estimate a robust association between a 10% increase in (ln) GDP per capita and a 0.04sd increase in child height by age 2. However, this correlation is not present at birth and is instead driven by differences in child growth rates. We interpret these results as indicating that differences in the post-birth health input stream, and/or the biological productivity of those inputs, likely explain the greater part of the economic growth association.

Keywords: human capital; demographic and health surveys; child anthropometrics; multi-level modeling (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I15 J13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 51 Pages
Date: 2020-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dev
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