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

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  • Stefan Dercon
  • Catherine Porter

Abstract

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 significant. 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 17–25 who experienced this severe shock in-utero and as infants during the crisis. Improving methodologically on other studies, famine intensity is measured at the household level, while impacts are assessed using a difference-indifferences comparison across siblings. We find that by adulthood, affected children who were under the age of 36 months at the peak of the crisis are significantly shorter than the older cohort, by at least 3cm. They are also less likely to have completed primary school, and more likely to have experienced recent illness. Indicative calculations show that this may lead to income losses of between 3% and 8% per year over their lifetime. The evidence also suggests that the relief operations at the time made little difference.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Dercon & Catherine Porter, 2010. "Live aid revisited: long-term impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian famine on children," CSAE Working Paper Series 2010-39, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2010-39
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Harold Alderman & John Hoddinott & Bill Kinsey, 2006. "Long term consequences of early childhood malnutrition," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 450-474, July.
    2. repec:oup:revage:v:28:y:2006:i:3:p:296-304. is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2007. "Making Famine History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(1), pages 5-38, March.
    5. 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.
    6. Deaton, Angus & Arora, Raksha, 2009. "Life at the top: The benefits of height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 133-136, July.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Famine; human development; Ethiopia;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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