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Trade liberalization and child mortality: A Synthetic Control Method


  • Olper, Alessandro
  • Curzi, Daniele
  • Swinnen, Johan


We study the effect of trade liberalization on child mortality using data from emerging and developing countries over the 1960–2010 period. To capture possible heterogeneity of effects, we use the Synthetic Control Method (SCM) for comparative case studies. The SCM allows to compare the trajectory of post-reform health outcomes of treated countries (those which experienced trade liberalization) with the trajectory of a combination of similar but untreated countries. On average, trade liberalization significantly reduced child mortality. The average reduction is around 9% ten years after the liberalization. But there is significant heterogeneity in the impact. For the cases for which the SCM could provide a reliable counterfactual, trade liberalization significantly reduced child mortality in approximately half the cases. In most other cases there was no significant effect. In the majority of the significant cases, the reduction in child mortality was more than 20%. On average, trade liberalization reduced child mortality more (a) in democracies compared to autocracies, (b) when incomes were higher and (c) when it reduced taxation of farmers.

Suggested Citation

  • Olper, Alessandro & Curzi, Daniele & Swinnen, Johan, 2018. "Trade liberalization and child mortality: A Synthetic Control Method," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 394-410.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:110:y:2018:i:c:p:394-410
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.05.034

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    More about this item


    Trade liberalization; Child mortality; Synthetic Control Method;

    JEL classification:

    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • O24 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Trade Policy; Factor Movement; Foreign Exchange Policy
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade


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