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The Impact of Transitory Income on Birth Weights: Evidence from a Blackout in Zanzibar

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  • Alfredo Burlando

    ()
    (University of Oregon Economics Department)

Abstract

Do transitory income shocks affect infant health? I find evidence that birth weights fell following a temporary income reduction caused by an unexpected, month-long blackout in Zanzibar. Relying on 350 household surveys collected during field work, I show that the 2008 blackout reduced labor supply of workers in electricity-dependent jobs by an average of 25%, with no effect on workers in other sectors. The income shock was temporary. Using over 20,000 birth records from a maternity ward, I document a reduction in the average birth weight of children exposed to the blackout while in utero, and an increase in the probability of low birth weight. Supporting a causal interpretation of these results, the reduction in weights is correlated with measures of maternal exposure to the blackout. In particular, reductions in birth weights were largest among children from wards with intermediate levels of employment in electrified sectors. The two causes that are most consistent with these results are a blackout-induced decline in maternal nutrition, and maternal stress. Alternative explanations are examined, including the possible effects of a temporary fertility shift. It is shown that the blackout increased births, but that selection into pregnancy cannot explain the drop in birth weights.

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File URL: http://economics.uoregon.edu/papers/UO-2010-1_Burlando_Blackout.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Oregon Economics Department in its series University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers with number 2010-1.

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Length: 41
Date of creation: 02 Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ore:uoecwp:2010-1

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Keywords: Neonatal health; Birthweights; Nutrition; Fertility; Transitory income; Blackouts; Africa;

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Cited by:
  1. Bejenariu, Simona & Mitrut, Andreea, 2012. "Austerity Measures and Infant Health. Lessons from an Unexpected Wage Cut Policy," Working Paper Series 2012:4, Uppsala University, Department of Economics, revised 10 Oct 2013.
  2. Kohlin, Gunnar & Sills, Erin O. & Pattanayak, Subhrendu K. & Wilfong, Christopher, 2011. "Energy, gender and development: what are the linkages ? where is the evidence ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5800, The World Bank.
  3. Gerard, Francois, 2013. "What Changes Energy Consumption, and for How Long? New Evidence from the 2001 Brazilian Electricity Crisis," Discussion Papers dp-13-06, Resources For the Future.

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