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Lowering Child Mortality in Poor Countries: The Power of Knowledgeable Parents

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  • Peter Boone
  • Zhaoguo Zhan

Abstract

Why do over 20% of children die in some poor countries, while in others only 2% die? We examine this question using survey data covering 278,000 children in 45 low-income countries. We find that parents' education and a mother's propensity to seek out modern healthcare are empirically important when explaining child survival, while the prevalence of common diseases, along with infrastructure such as improved water and sanitation, are not. Using a GINI coefficient we construct for treatment services, we find that public and private health systems are "equally unequal", that is, both tend to favor children in relatively well-off households, and neither appears superior at improving outcomes in very poor communities. These facts contrast with a common view that a much-expanded public health sector is necessary to reduce child mortality. Instead, we believe the empirical evidence points to the essential role of parents as advocates for their child's health. If we can provide better health knowledge and general education to parents, a private healthcare sector can arise to meet demand. We provide evidence that this alternative route to low mortality is indeed a reason behind the current success of many countries with low child mortality, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt, and the Indian state of Kerala. Finally, we calculate a realistic package of interventions that target education, health knowledge and treatment seeking could reduce child mortality by 32%.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Boone & Zhaoguo Zhan, 2006. "Lowering Child Mortality in Poor Countries: The Power of Knowledgeable Parents," CEP Discussion Papers dp0751, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0751
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    File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp0751.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2007. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 925-985, December.
    2. Filmer, Deon*Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
    3. David N. Weil, 2005. "Accounting for the Effect of Health on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 11455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jack, William & Lewis, Maureen, 2009. "Health investments and economic growth : macroeconomic evidence and microeconomic foundations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4877, The World Bank.
    2. Charles KENNY, 2008. "What's Not Converging? East Asia's Relative Performance in Income, Health, and Education," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 3(1), pages 19-37.
    3. repec:wsi:jicepx:v:03:y:2012:i:02:n:s1793993312500093 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Singh, Prakarsh, 2011. "Performance Pay and Information: Reducing Child Malnutrition in Urban Slums," MPRA Paper 29403, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Casabonne, Ursula & Kenny, Charles, 2012. "The Best Things in Life are (Nearly) Free: Technology, Knowledge, and Global Health," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 21-35.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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