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Rainfall shocks, parental behavior and breastfeeding: evidence from rural Vietnam


  • Thuan Q. Thai

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Mikko Myrskylä

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)


In developing countries, rainfall shocks around the time of birth have been shown decrease later health. The mechanism is unknown, but could run through income shocks, disease exposure, or increasing opportunity cost of parental time which influences parenting behavior. We use the Vietnam Demographic Health Surveys to study how rainfall shocks around the birth year influence a key dimension of parental behavior, breastfeeding. Consistent with the opportunity cost of time theory, rainfall reduces breastfeeding: 25% excess rainfall in the birth year decreases the proportion that is breastfed more than a year by 11 percentage points. The effect is particularly strong among farming families, for whom rainfall increases the opportunity cost of time through labor demand. These results are the first to shed light on the mechanism linking rainfall shocks and child health. Policy aiming to improve child health through breastfeeding should focus on the impact of labor demand on breastfeeding.

Suggested Citation

  • Thuan Q. Thai & Mikko Myrskylä, 2012. "Rainfall shocks, parental behavior and breastfeeding: evidence from rural Vietnam," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2012-009, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2012-009

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. María Fernanda Rosales, 2014. "Impact of Early Life Shocks on Human Capital Formation: El Niño Floods in Ecuador," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 87693, Inter-American Development Bank.

    More about this item


    Vietnam; breast feeding; cost of children;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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