The Long Run Health and Economic Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from China's Great Famine

67 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2006

See all articles by Xin Meng

Xin Meng

Australian National University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2006

Abstract

In the past century, more people have perished from famine than from the two World Wars combined. Many more were exposed to famine and survived. Yet we know almost nothing about the long run impact of famine on these survivors. This paper addresses this question by estimating the effect of childhood exposure to China's Great Famine on adult health and labor market outcomes of survivors. It resolves two major empirical difficulties: 1) data limitation in measures of famine intensity; and 2) the potential joint determination of famine occurrences and survivors' outcomes. As a measure of famine intensity, we use regional cohort size of the surviving population in a place and time when there is little migration. We then exploit a novel source of plausibly exogenous variation in famine intensity to estimate the causal effect of childhood exposure to famine on adult health, educational attainment and labor supply. The results show that exposure to famine had significant adverse effects on adult health and work capacity. The magnitude of the effect is negatively correlated with age at the onset of the famine. For example, for those who were one year old at the onset of the famine, exposure on average reduced height by 2.08% (3.34cm), weight by 6.03% (3.38kg), weight-for-height by 4% (0.01 kg/cm), upper arm circumference by 3.95% (0.99cm) and labor supply by 6.93% (3.28 hrs/week). The results also suggest that famine exposure decreased educational attainment by 3% (0.19 years); and that selection for survival decreased within-region inequality in famine stricken regions.

Keywords: health, education, famine, China

JEL Classification: I10, I2, J1

Suggested Citation

Meng, Xin and Qian, Nancy, The Long Run Health and Economic Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from China's Great Famine (November 2006). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2471. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=950915

Xin Meng (Contact Author)

Australian National University ( email )

Research School of Economics
College of Business and Economics
Canberra ACT 0200
Australia
+61 26249 3102 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

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