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The impact of natural disasters on child health and investments in rural India

  • Datar, Ashlesha
  • Liu, Jenny
  • Linnemayr, Sebastian
  • Stecher, Chad

There is growing concern that climate change will lead to more frequent natural disasters that may adversely affect short- and long-term health outcomes in developing countries. Prior research has primarily focused on the impact of single, large disaster events but very little is known about how small and moderate disasters, which are more typical, affect population health. In this paper, we present one of the first investigations of the impact of small and moderate disasters on childhood morbidity, physical growth, and immunizations by combining household data on over 80,000 children from three waves of the Indian National Family and Health Survey with an international database of natural disasters (EM-DAT). We find that exposure to a natural disaster in the past month increases the likelihood of acute illnesses such as diarrhea, fever, and acute respiratory illness in children under 5 year by 9–18%. Exposure to a disaster in the past year reduces height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores by 0.12–0.15 units, increases the likelihood of stunting and underweight by 7%, and reduces the likelihood of having full age-appropriate immunization coverage by nearly 18%. We also find that disasters' effects vary significantly by gender, age, and socioeconomic characteristics. Most notably, the adverse effects on growth outcomes are much smaller among boys, infants, and families with more socioeconomic resources.

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

Volume (Year): 76 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 83-91

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:76:y:2013:i:c:p:83-91
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.10.008
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  1. Seema Jayachandran, 2008. "Air Quality and Early-Life Mortality: Evidence from Indonesia's Wildfires," NBER Working Papers 14011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Elaina Rose, 1999. "Consumption Smoothing and Excess Female Mortality in Rural India," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(1), pages 41-49, February.
  3. Chen, Yuyu & Zhou, Li-An, 2007. "The long-term health and economic consequences of the 1959-1961 famine in China," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 659-681, July.
  4. Haas, Steven, 2008. "Trajectories of functional health: The 'long arm' of childhood health and socioeconomic factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(4), pages 849-861, February.
  5. Behrman, Jere R, 1988. "Intrahousehold Allocation of Nutrients in Rural India: Are Boys Favored? Do Parents Exhibit Inequality Aversion?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(1), pages 32-54, March.
  6. Hoyt Bleakley, 2009. "Economic Effects of Childhood Exposure to Tropical Disease," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 218-23, May.
  7. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2010. "Causes and consequences of early-life health," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(1), pages S65-S85, March.
  8. Vinod Mishra & T. K. Roy & Robert D. Retherford, 2004. "Sex Differentials in Childhood Feeding, Health Care, and Nutritional Status in India," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(2), pages 269-295.
  9. Carter, Michael R. & Little, Peter D. & Mogues, Tewodaj & Negatu, Workneh, 2007. "Poverty Traps and Natural Disasters in Ethiopia and Honduras," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 835-856, May.
  10. Sharon L. Maccini & Dean Yang, 2008. "Under the Weather: Health, Schooling, and Economic Consequences of Early-Life Rainfall," NBER Working Papers 14031, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hoddinott, John & Kinsey, Bill, 2001. " Child Growth in the Time of Drought," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 63(4), pages 409-36, September.
  12. Sonalde Desai & Soumya Alva, 1998. "Maternal education and child health: Is there a strong causal relationship?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 35(1), pages 71-81, February.
  13. Mark Skidmore & Hideki Toya, 2005. "Economic Development and the Impacts of Natural Disasters," Working Papers 05-04, UW-Whitewater, Department of Economics.
  14. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1982. "Market Opportunities, Genetic Endowments, and Intrafamily Resource Distribution: Child Survival in Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 803-15, September.
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  16. repec:pri:cheawb:case_and_paxson_early_life_health_w15637 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Narayan Sastry, 2002. "Forest fires, air pollution, and mortality in Southeast Asia," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(1), pages 1-23, February.
  18. Matthew E. Kahn, 2005. "The Death Toll from Natural Disasters: The Role of Income, Geography, and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 271-284, May.
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  20. Miller, Barbara D., 1997. "Social class, gender and intrahousehold food allocations to children in South Asia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(11), pages 1685-1695, June.
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