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Mortality Risks, Health Endowments, and Parental Investments in Infancy: Evidence from Rural India


  • Ashlesha Datar
  • Arkadipta Ghosh
  • Neeraj Sood


This paper examines whether increased background mortality risks induce households to make differential health investments in their high- versus low-endowment children. We argue that increases in background mortality risks may disproportionately affect the survival of the low-endowment sibling, consequently increasing the mortality gap between the high- and low-endowment siblings. This increase in mortality gap may induce households to investment more in their high endowment children. We test this hypothesis using nationally representative data from rural India. We use birth size as a measure of initial health endowment, immunization & breastfeeding as measures of childhood investments and infant mortality rate in the child's village as a measure of mortality risks. We find that in villages with high mortality risks, small-at-birth children in a family are 6 - 17 percent less likely to be breastfed or immunized compared to their large-at-birth siblings. In contrast, we find no significant within family differences in investments in villages with low mortality risks.

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  • Ashlesha Datar & Arkadipta Ghosh & Neeraj Sood, 2007. "Mortality Risks, Health Endowments, and Parental Investments in Infancy: Evidence from Rural India," NBER Working Papers 13649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13649
    Note: CH HC

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 143-162, August.
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    5. Estevan, Fernanda & Baland, Jean-Marie, 2007. "Mortality risks, education and child labor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 118-137, September.
    6. Ayalew, Tekabe, 2005. "Parental Preference, Heterogeneity, and Human Capital Inequality," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(2), pages 381-407, January.
    7. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    8. Pitt, Mark M & Rosenzweig, Mark R & Hassan, Md Nazmul, 1990. "Productivity, Health, and Inequality in the Intrahousehold Distribution of Food in Low-Income Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1139-1156, December.
    9. Mark R. Rosenzweig & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1988. "Heterogeneity, Intrafamily Distribution, and Child Health," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(4), pages 437-461.
    10. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1982. "Market Opportunities, Genetic Endowments, and Intrafamily Resource Distribution: Child Survival in Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 803-815, September.
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    12. Behrman, Jere R & Rosenzweig, Mark R & Taubman, Paul, 1994. "Endowments and the Allocation of Schooling in the Family and in the Marriage Market: The Twins Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1131-1174, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schultz, T. Paul, 2010. "Population and Health Policies," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    2. Ruben Castro & Jere Behrman & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2015. "Perception of HIV risk and the quantity and quality of children: the case of rural Malawi," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(1), pages 113-132, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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