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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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13649.

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Date of creation: Nov 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13649
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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 1984. "Heterogeneity, Intrafamily Distribution and Child Health," Bulletins 8429, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
  3. Alderman, Harold, et al, 1995. "Unitary versus Collective Models of the Household: Is It Time to Shift the Burden of Proof?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 10(1), pages 1-19, February.
  4. Estevan, Fernanda & Baland, Jean-Marie, 2007. "Mortality risks, education and child labor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 118-137, September.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 1139-56, December.
  7. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
  8. 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 803-15, September.
  9. 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 1131-74, December.
  10. Moreno, Lorenzo & Goldman, Noreen, 1990. "An assessment of survey data on birthweight," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 491-500, January.
  11. Tomas J. Philipson & William H. Dow & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1999. "Longevity Complementarities under Competing Risks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1358-1371, December.
  12. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1976. "Child Endowments, and the Quantity and Quality of Children," NBER Working Papers 0123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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