Macro-economic shocks and infant survival: a global perspective
Author(s): Baird S, Friedman J, Schady N
Publication date: 2005
Number of pages: 13
Background: If income is protective of health, as has been suggested in a number of studies, then deviations from anticipated national income may have important ramifications for population health, including child survival. Two recent studies have looked at single country macro-economic cycles and found significant impacts of contractions in the national economy on the infant mortality rate (Paxson and Schady (2004) and Dehejia and Lleras-Muney (2004)).
Objectives: The objective of this paper is to utilize a global data set to determine the extent and severity of the link between macro-economic contractions and infant mortality in low- and middle- income countries. We pay particular attention to the heterogeneity of this relationship across many salient country-level dimensions.
Methods: We utilize Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 59 low- and middle-income countries to investigate the co-variation of trend-deviations in per capita GDP and infant mortality. Through the use of time-series and non-parametric regression techniques we identify the effect of macro-economic contractions on IMR and we explore how the severity of the contractions and the country conditions mediate the impact of fluctuations in national income on child survival.
Findings: We find that there is a strong, significant, and statistically robust relationship between fluctuations in GDP per capita and IMR. These findings persist even after controlling for year to year changes in the annual composition of birth mothers. By far, the greatest harmful impacts occur for very large and negative deviations from expected national income. There are also important regional differences in the measured response, as well as differential population impacts depending on the socio-economic status of the mother.
Conclusions: Deviations from anticipated national income affect the survival of infants. This is especially true for large deviations, where macro-economic shocks such as financial crises result on average in very large in creases in the year to year infant mortality rate. Nevertheless there is substantial cross-country heterogeneity in this relationship.
Policy Implications: The heterogeneity in the cross-country relationship between deviations in national income and infant survival suggests that protective policies and programs may very well make a difference in times of economic contraction. Ongoing research is seeking to identify which of these protective policies and programs are most effective in insuring child survival.