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The Long Run Health and Economic Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from China's Great Famine

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  • Meng, Xin
  • Qian, Nancy

Abstract

In the past century, more people have perished from famine than from the two World Wars combined. Many more were exposed to famine and survived. Yet we know almost nothing about the long run impact of famine on these survivors. This paper addresses this question by estimating the effect of childhood exposure to China's Great Famine on adult health and labor market outcomes of survivors. It resolves two major empirical difficulties: 1) data limitation in measures of famine intensity; and 2) the potential joint determination of famine occurrences and survivors' outcomes. As a measure of famine intensity, we use regional cohort size of the surviving population in a place and time when there is little migration. We then exploit a novel source of plausibly exogenous variation in famine intensity to estimate the causal effect of childhood exposure to famine on adult health, educational attainment and labor supply. The results show that exposure to famine had significant adverse effects on adult health and work capacity. The magnitude of the effect is negatively correlated with age at the onset of the famine. For example, for those who were one year old at the onset of the famine, exposure on average reduced height by 2.08% (3.34cm), weight by 6.03% (3.38kg), weight-for-height by 4% (0.01 kg/cm), upper arm circumference by 3.95% (0.99cm) and labor supply by 6.93% (3.28 hrs/week). The results also suggest that famine exposure decreased educational attainment by 3% (0.19 years); and that selection for survival decreased within-region inequality in famine stricken regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Meng, Xin & Qian, Nancy, 2006. "The Long Run Health and Economic Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from China's Great Famine," CEPR Discussion Papers 5989, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5989
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    Cited by:

    1. David M. Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney & Tom Vogl, 2008. "Socioeconomic Status and Health: Dimensions and Mechanisms," NBER Working Papers 14333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Rodolfo Manuelli, 2011. "Disease and Development: The Role of Human Capital," Working Papers 2011-008, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Loren Brandt & Aloysius Siow & Carl Vogel, 2009. "Large Demographic Shocks and Small Changes in the Marriage Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 615, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    4. Lehmann, Hartmut & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "The impact of Chernobyl on health and labour market performance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 843-857.
    5. Baez, Javier E., 2011. "Civil wars beyond their borders: The human capital and health consequences of hosting refugees," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 391-408, November.
    6. Tom Bundervoet & Philip Verwimp & Richard Akresh, 2009. "Health and Civil War in Rural Burundi," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
    7. David M. Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2012. "Education and Health: Insights from International Comparisons," NBER Working Papers 17738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Catarina Goulão & Agustín Pérez-Barahona, 2014. "Intergenerational Transmission of Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 16(3), pages 467-490, June.
    9. Janet Currie & Tom Vogl, 2013. "Early-Life Health and Adult Circumstance in Developing Countries," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 1-36, May.
    10. Philip Verwimp & Jan Van Bavel, 2014. "Schooling, Violent Conflict, and Gender in Burundi," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(2), pages 384-411.
    11. Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, 2014. "Children of War: The Long-Run Effects of Large-Scale Physical Destruction and Warfare on Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(3), pages 634-662.
    12. Lindeboom, Maarten & Portrait, France & van den Berg, Gerard J., 2010. "Long-run effects on longevity of a nutritional shock early in life: The Dutch Potato famine of 1846-1847," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 617-629, September.
    13. Maria Porter, 2016. "How do sex ratios in China influence marriage decisions and intra-household resource allocation?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 337-371, June.
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    15. Alan I. Barreca, 2010. "The Long-Term Economic Impact of In Utero and Postnatal Exposure to Malaria," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(4), pages 865-892.
    16. van den Berg, Gerard J. & Lindeboom, Maarten & Portrait, France, 2007. "Long-Run Longevity Effects of a Nutritional Shock Early in Life: The Dutch Potato Famine of 1846–1847," IZA Discussion Papers 3123, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Xin Meng & Nancy Qian, 2009. "The Long Term Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from a Unique Natural Experiment using China's Great Famine," NBER Working Papers 14917, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Maksim Yemelyanau & Aliaksandr Amialchuk & Mir Ali, 2012. "Evidence from the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident: The Effect on Health, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes in Belarus," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 1-20, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    children; demographic; famine; institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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