The Effects of Negative Economic Shocks at Birth on Child Health in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Paper Abstract
In this study, I estimate the effects that mothers' experience of negative economic shocks during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth has on children's subjective and objective health measures in Malawi. Using data from the Malawi Longitudinal Study on Families and Health (MLSFH), I find that children whose mothers were hit by such economic shocks were about 7 percentage points less likely to be reported to be in excellent health and 8 percentage points less likely to be reported to be in much better health compared to children of the same age and sex in the same village by their mothers. They were also about 300 grams lighter and 0.3 centimeters shorter than others, although the latter estimate is relatively imprecise and not statistically significant at conventional significance levels. These results are robust to various econometric specifications and sample selection rules. In addition, I propose a simple model to account for the fact that economic shocks are self-reported and show that my results are likely to continue to hold under reasonable assumptions about the rates of false positive and false negative reports of these economic shocks.