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Estimated Impact of the COVID-19 Economic Recession on Under-5 Mortality Rates for 129 Countries

45 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2021

See all articles by Marcelo Cardona Cabrera

Marcelo Cardona Cabrera

University of Copenhagen

Joseph Millward

Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs

Katelyn Jison Yoo

Health, Nutrition, and Population, World Bank

Alison Gemmill

Johns Hopkins University - Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health

David Bishai

Johns Hopkins University - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Abstract

Background: This study estimates the potential loss of life in children under five years old attributable to the economic recessions of 2020. Multiple prior studies have shown a strong and independent effect of GDP per capita on child mortality in developing countries after controlling for health system effects, demography, politics, environment, and literacy.

Methods: Data were retrieved from the World Bank World Development Indicators database and the United Nations World Populations Prospects estimates for the years 1990-2020 for 129 countries with GDP per capita below 12,375 US$ (defined as low, lower-middle, and upper-middle income countries; LMICs). We used a multi-level, mixed effects, multivariate model to estimate the adjusted relationship between GDP per capita and the under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) specific to each country. The model’s country-specific parameters were used to simulate the impact on U5MR due to reductions in GDP per capita of 5%, 10%, and 15%.

Findings: In a conservative scenario, a 5% reduction in GDP per capita in 2020 is estimated to cause an additional 282,996 deaths in children under 5 in one year compared to a baseline of no economic recession. Recessions at 10% and 15% lead to higher losses of under-5 lives, increasing to 585,802 and 911,026 additional deaths, respectively. We estimate that nearly half of all the potential under-5 lives lost from economic recessions in LMICs are estimated to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Interpretation: In developing countries, under-5 mortality rates are closely tied to national income. We estimate that the recessions of 2020 will lead to around 300,000 deaths in the under-5 population. Our results do not take into account the irreparable effects of economic deprivation on child development. We expect to see similar trends of child mortality in the next few years in the absence of sufficient SARS-CoV-2 vaccination or herd immunity.

Funding Statement: A grant from Big Win Philanthropy partially funded this study.

Declaration of Interests: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Suggested Citation

Cabrera, Marcelo Cardona and Millward, Joseph and Yoo, Katelyn Jison and Gemmill, Alison and Bishai, David, Estimated Impact of the COVID-19 Economic Recession on Under-5 Mortality Rates for 129 Countries. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3742282 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3742282

Marcelo Cardona Cabrera

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Joseph Millward

Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs ( email )

Katelyn Jison Yoo

Health, Nutrition, and Population, World Bank ( email )

Alison Gemmill

Johns Hopkins University - Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health

United States

David Bishai (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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