Title

Three essays on children's well-being in developing countries

Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

Keywords

Genocides and refugees, Fertility, Natural disasters, Human capital accumulation, Children, Developing countries

Subject Categories

Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Several factors that increase the prevalence of poverty and threaten children's well-being persist in the developing world. Two specific issues are the focus of this dissertation: the consequences of fertility and risks on health and human capital formation in three developing countries. The first chapter uses exogenous variation in fertility from parental preferences for sex-mix among their children to identify the causal effect of family size on investments in children. Results using data from Colombia suggest that family size has negative effects on average child quality as measured by less schooling and weaker health and nutrition. It also reduces mother labor participation and increases child labor. The second chapter exploits the exogenous variation in the trajectory of a hurricane that hit Nicaragua in October in 1998 to examine the consequences of large and aggregated shocks in the well-being of children. The results show that this natural disaster had adverse medium-run effects in terms of health, nutrition and labor force participation. Children in affected areas were 30% less likely to be taken for medical consultation, four times more likely to be undernourished and more likely to join the labor market. Further evidence suggests that children were disproportionately affected by the shock as the nutritional status of mothers and adult consumption in affected areas were largely unchanged by the storm. Finally, the third chapter turns the attention to another type of shock: the migration of refugees from civil wars. Kagera--a region in northwestern Tanzania--received more than 500,000 refugees from the genocides of Burundi and Rwanda. This region is home to a series of geographic natural barriers, which resulted in exogenous variation in refugee intensity. This variation is used to investigate the short and long run causal effects of hosting refugees on the outcomes of local children. The results in the short run point to a deterioration of children's anthropometrics and an increase in children's morbidity and mortality. Childhood exposure to the massive arrival of refugees reduced height in early adulthood by 1.8 cm (1.2%), schooling by 0.2 years (7.1%) and literacy by 7 percentage points (8.6%) in the long run.

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