Human capital accumulation: The impact of aggregate shocks on child health

Maria Eugenia Davalos Perdomo, Fordham University


This dissertation explores the effect of three different types of crises -conflict, natural disasters and macroeconomic crisis- on child health and nutrition. Chapter 1 seeks to generalize previous results on the effect of armed conflict on child malnutrition. Consistent with existing single-country studies but now using country data from a sample of developing countries, results show a sharp increase in the prevalence of chronic child malnutrition with increases in conflict intensity. Further, on average, both boys and girls seem to be deeply but equally affected by the shock. Moreover, I provide initial evidence of a potential malnutrition-reducing role of aid flows specific to post-conflict settings, supporting donors' post-cold war pattern of aid, in which flows increase post-conflict instead of during conflict periods. Chapter 2 shows that even in a country classified as upper middle-income, with safety nets targeting the poor such as South Africa, children are not exempt from the short-term negative consequences of climatic shocks. With data from the province of Kwazulu-Natal and using a difference-in-difference approach, I exploit the exogenous intensity and spatial variation in a severe drought to find that children in affected areas had a higher probability of being ill and lower weight-for-height z-scores. Quantitative and qualitative evidence shows that these effects are potentially transmitted through channels other than losses in household income, namely through lack of access to water and/or food prices/shortages. Further, findings suggest that results are not driven by differences in HIV/AIDS or access to social grants between affected and non-affected groups, both relevant factors in the context of South Africa. Finally, Chapter 3 focuses on the decline in living standards from the Indonesian financial crisis and its effect on child height-for-age z-scores. I propose an individual fixed-effects methodology using, for the first time, both medium and long-term data and a continuous shock measure in the form of district-level changes in poverty rates. Where most of the existing research focuses on the short or medium terms and reports no average effect of the crisis on child nutrition, I find that, while indeed a generalized effect is not observed, the poorest and youngest children, particularly those in rural areas, show worse malnutrition levels in the medium-term, in some cases persisting almost a decade later. Results highlight the relevance of going beyond national averages, as important negative consequences of shocks for some groups might remain undetected.

Subject Area

Economics|Public health

Recommended Citation

Davalos Perdomo, Maria Eugenia, "Human capital accumulation: The impact of aggregate shocks on child health" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3438471.