IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Average Household Size and the Eradication of Malaria

Listed author(s):
  • Lena Hulden


    (Department of Agricultural Science,Helsinki University)

  • Ross McKitrick


    (Department of Economics,University of Guelph)

  • Larry Hulden


    (Finnish Museum of Natural History)

Efforts to eradicate malaria during the 20th century succeeded in some parts of the world but failed in others. Malaria also disappeared spontaneously in several countries for reasons that remain an enigma. The connection between malaria and poverty has long been noted. Here we focus on a specific aspect: household size, which has hitherto received little attention. We find strong evidence that when average household size drops below four persons, the probability of malaria eradication jumps dramatically and its incidence in the population drops significantly. This effect is independent of all commonly-studied explanatory variables and was globally valid across all climate zones irrespective of counter measures, vector species, or Plasmodium species. We propose an explanation based on the dispersal mechanism of the parasite. Malaria is transmitted at night by mosquito bite. The mosquito typically spreads the Plasmodium only locally over short distances to new human victims. To survive, the Plasmodium depends on infected humans making social contacts over longer distances. When household size decreases sufficiently, these contacts cross a threshold value that changes the balance between extinctions and replacements and the Plasmodium disappears on its own. We test this interpretation by contrasting our malaria model with dengue fever, which is also poverty-related and mosquito-borne but transmitted differently, namely through daytime exposure. Household size is uncorrelated with dengue incidence, whereas an indicator of outdoor work that is insignificant in the malaria model is highly significant for dengue. We conclude that poverty-induced malaria infection risks are likely to persist, but a focus on reducing effective household size can be a feasible and promising means of its eradication.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance in its series Working Papers with number 1203.

in new window

Length: 129 pp
Date of creation: 2012
Handle: RePEc:gue:guelph:2012-03.
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1

Phone: (519) 824-4120 ext. 53898
Fax: (519) 763-8497
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Zhang, MunkhDalai A. & Borjigin, Elles & Zhang, Huiping, 2007. "Mongolian nomadic culture and ecological culture: On the ecological reconstruction in the agro-pastoral mosaic zone in Northern China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 19-26, April.
  2. Evan F. Koenig & Robert Leeson & George A. Kahn, 2012. "Introduction," Book Chapters,in: Evan F. Koenig & Robert Leeson & George A. Kahn (ed.), The Taylor Rule and the Transformation of Monetary Policy, chapter 1 Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gue:guelph:2012-03.. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Stephen Kosempel)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.