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The influence of economic development level, household wealth and maternal education on child health in the developing world


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  • Boyle, Michael H.
  • Racine, Yvonne
  • Georgiades, Katholiki
  • Snelling, Dana
  • Hong, Sungjin
  • Omariba, Walter
  • Hurley, Patricia
  • Rao-Melacini, Purnima
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    This study estimates the relative importance to child health (indicated by weight and height for age) of economic development level [gross domestic product (GDP) converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates: GDP-PPP], household wealth and maternal education and examines the modifying influence of national contexts on these estimates. It uses information collected from mothers aged 15-49-years participating in Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) conducted in 42 developing countries. In multilevel regression models, the three study variables exhibited strong independent associations with child health: GDP-PPP accounted for the largest amount of unique variation, followed by maternal education and household wealth. There was also substantial overlap (shared variance) between maternal education and the other two study variables. The regressions of child health on household wealth and maternal education exhibited substantial cross-national variation in both strength and form of association. Although higher education levels were associated with disproportionately greater returns to child health, the pattern for household wealth was erratic: in many countries there were diminishing returns to child health at higher levels of household wealth. We conclude that there are inextricable links among different strategies for improving child health and that policy planners, associating benefits with these strategies, must take into account the strong moderating impact of national context.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 63 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 8 (October)
    Pages: 2242-2254

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:63:y:2006:i:8:p:2242-2254

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    Keywords: Developing countries Child health Economic development Household wealth Maternal education Multi-level modelling;


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    Cited by:
    1. Shu-Hsi Ho & Wen-Shai Hung, 2013. "A study of the Health of Children Born to Foreign- and Native-Born Mothers in Taiwan," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 355-368, September.
    2. Wittenberg, Martin, 2011. "Estimating expenditure impacts without expenditure data using asset proxies," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 122-125, February.
    3. Ana Maria Osorio & Catalina Bolancé & Nyovane Madise & Katharina Rathmann, 2013. "Social Determinants of Child Health in Colombia: Can Community Education Moderate the Effect of Family Characteristics?," Working Papers, Xarxa de Referència en Economia Aplicada (XREAP) XREAP2013-02, Xarxa de Referència en Economia Aplicada (XREAP), revised Mar 2013.
    4. Yusuf, Shahid & Nabeshima, Kaoru & Wei Ha, 2007. "What makes cities healthy ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4107, The World Bank.
    5. Regina Fuchs & Elsie Pamuk & Wolfgang Lutz, 2010. "Education or wealth: which matters more for reducing child mortality in developing countries?," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 8(1), pages 175-199.
    6. Martin Wittenberg, 2009. "Weighing the value of Asset Proxies: The case of the Body Mass Index in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town 39, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    7. Chalasani, Satvika, 2012. "Understanding wealth-based inequalities in child health in India: A decomposition approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2160-2169.
    8. Griffiths, Paula L. & Johnson, William & Cameron, Noël & Pettifor, John M. & Norris, Shane A., 2013. "In urban South Africa, 16 year old adolescents experience greater health equality than children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 502-514.


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