The Long Term Health and Economic Consequences of 1959-1961 Famine in China

43 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2005

See all articles by Yuyu Chen

Yuyu Chen

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Li-An Zhou

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Date Written: 2002

Abstract

China's 1959-1961 famine caused about 15-30 million excess death tolls, standing out as the worst in human history. Despite the striking severity of the catastrophe, little is known about its long-term effects. This paper, using a unique individual level dataset, tries to quantify the long-term effects of the famine on the health and economic status of the survivors. While the main approach adopted by many previous studies relies on the variations in the exposure to the famine by different cohorts, we construct a difference-in-difference estimator by using the variations in the exposure of famine both across regions and across cohorts. Chinese institutional context in the famine period greatly alleviates the potential problems concerning endogenous response to famine and sample selection bias. We find that the great famine in 1959-61 caused serious health and economic consequences for the survivors, especially for those who were in early childhood during the famine. Our estimates show that on average, in the absence of the famine, individuals of 1959 birth cohort would have otherwise grown 3.35 cm taller, and have nearly 28% of increase in total labor supply and 38% of increase in per capita agrarian income. We also find that the famine created a larger sustained effect on boys than girls in terms of height attainment.

Keywords: Famine, health, diffrence-in-differences estimator, Labor supply, China

JEL Classification: I12, J13

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yuyu and Zhou, Li-An, The Long Term Health and Economic Consequences of 1959-1961 Famine in China (2002). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=841764 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.841764

Yuyu Chen (Contact Author)

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

Li-An Zhou

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

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