Age Profile Estimates of the Relationship between Economic Growth and Child Health

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Description: For the last several years, there has been a debate in the academic literature regarding the association between economic growth and child health in under-developed countries, with many arguing the association is strong and robust and several new papers arguing the association is weak or nonexistent. Focusing on child growth faltering as a process that unfolds over the first several years of life, we provide new evidence tracing out the relationship between macroeconomic trends and the trajectory of child growth through age 5. Using two novel regression models that each harness different kinds of within- and between-country variation, and data on over 600,000 children from 38 countries over more than 20 years, our estimates of the association are relatively small but precise, and are consistent across both estimators. We estimate that a $10\%$ increase in GDP around the time of a child's birth is associated with a decrease in the rate of loss of HAZ of about 0.002 SD per month over the first two years of life, which generates a cumulative effect of around 0.04 SD by age 3 that then persists through age 5. Our estimates are small compared to most previously published statistically significant estimates, more precisely estimated than previous insignificant estimates, and relate to a broader population of children than previous estimates focused on dichotomous outcomes.

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