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Long-Term Effects Of The 1959-1961 China Famine: Mainland China and Hong Kong

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  • Douglas Almond
  • Lena Edlund
  • Hongbin Li
  • Junsen Zhang

Abstract

This paper estimates the effects of maternal malnutrition exploiting the 1959-1961 Chinese famine as a natural experiment. In the 1% sample of the 2000 Chinese Census, we find that fetal exposure to acute maternal malnutrition had compromised a range of socioeconomic outcomes, including: literacy, labor market status, wealth and marriage market outcomes. Women married spouses with less education and later, as did men, if at all. In addition, maternal malnutrition reduced the sex ratio (males to females) in two generations -- those prenatally exposed and their children -- presumably through heightened male mortality. This tendency toward female offspring is interpretable in light of the Trivers-Willard (1973) hypothesis, according to which parents in poor condition should skew the offspring sex ratio toward daughters. Hong Kong natality micro data from 1984-2004 further confirm this pattern of female offspring among mainland-born residents exposed to malnutrition in utero.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13384.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Publication status: published as Ito, Takatoshi and Andrew K. Rose (eds.) The Economic Consequences of Demographic Change in East Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13384

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  1. Zhehui Luo & Ren Mu & Xiaobo Zhang, 2006. "Famine and Overweight in China ," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 28(3), pages 296-304.
  2. David M. Cutler & Angus S. Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "The Determinants of Mortality," Working Papers id:359, eSocialSciences.
  3. Wei Li & Dennis Tao Yang, 2005. "The Great Leap Forward: Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 840-877, August.
  4. Gorgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2007. "Stunting and Selection Effects of Famine: A Case Study of the Great Chinese Famine," IZA Discussion Papers 2543, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
  6. Karen Norberg, 2004. "Partnership Status and the Human Sex Ratio at Birth," NBER Working Papers 10920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Yong Cai & Wang Feng, 2005. "Famine, social disruption, and involuntary fetal loss: Evidence from chinese survey data," Demography, Springer, vol. 42(2), pages 301-322, May.
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