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Live aid revisited: long-term impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian famine on children

  • Dercon, Stefan
  • Porter, Catherine

In 1984, the world was shocked at the scale of a famine in Ethiopia that caused over half a million deaths, making it one of the worst in recent history. The mortality impacts are clearly signi cant. But what of the survivors? This paper provides the first estimates the long-term impact of the famine twenty years later, on the height of young adults aged 19-22 years who experienced this severe shock as infants during the crisis. An innovative feature of the analysis is that famine intensity is measured at the household level, while impacts are assessed using a di fference-in-di fferences comparison across siblings, and compared with an IV cross-section, using rainfall as an instrument for the shock. We find that by adulthood, a ffected children who were aged of 12-36 months at the peak of the crisis are signi cantly shorter than the older cohort, and their una ffected peers, by at least 5cm. There are no signi ficant e ffects on those in utero during the crisis, and we cannot rule out that for this cohort, the selection e ffect dominates scarring. Indicative calculations show that for the aff ected group such height loss may lead to income losses of around 5% per year over their lifetime. The evidence also suggests that the relief operations at the time made little di fference.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9033.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9033
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  1. Alderman,Harold & Hoddinott, John & Kinsey, Bill, 2003. "Long-term consequences of early childhood malnutrition," FCND discussion papers 168, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  2. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2007. "Making Famine History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(1), pages 5-38, March.
  3. Kathleen Beegle & Joachim De Weerdt & Stefan Dercon, 2007. "Orphanhood and the long-run impact on children," CSAE Working Paper Series 2007-08, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. Deaton, Angus & Arora, Raksha, 2009. "Life at the top: The benefits of height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 133-136, July.
  5. Bound, John & Solon, Gary, 1999. "Double trouble: on the value of twins-based estimation of the return to schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 169-182, April.
  6. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
  7. Zhehui Luo & Ren Mu & Xiaobo Zhang, 2006. "Famine and Overweight in China ," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 28(3), pages 296-304.
  8. Neelsen, Sven & Stratmann, Thomas, 2011. "Effects of prenatal and early life malnutrition: Evidence from the Greek famine," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 479-488, May.
  9. 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.
  10. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Timothy M. Watts, 2007. "Long Run Health Impacts of Income Shocks: Wine and Phylloxera in 19th Century France," NBER Working Papers 12895, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Webb, Patrick & von Braun, Joachim & Yohannes, Yisehac, 1992. "Famine in Ethiopia: policy implications of coping failure at national and household levels," Research reports 92, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  12. Michael P. Murray, 2006. "Avoiding Invalid Instruments and Coping with Weak Instruments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 111-132, Fall.
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