Friday, August 31, 2012

Lit in Review: Child Undernutrition and Labor

Harttgen, Klasen, and Vollmer, "Economic Growth and Child Undernutrition in Africa," GlobalFood Discussion Paper.

They add to the short but slowly growing literature on the impact of economic growth on child undernutrition that I based my dissertation work on. They add Klasen (08), Friedman and Schady (09), and Subramanyam et al (11) to the ones I knew about.

They identify a micro-macro paradox: increasing household income reduces undernutrition significantly but increasing average incomes doesn't make nearly the same difference. It is rather disturbing to me to see for how many SSA countries there has been significant improvement in GDP/capita, but a worsening of child hunger. Among the things they find that matter more than GDP/capita, household asset rank matters, suggesting that inequality may be an important part of the story.

Bhagowalia, Menon, Quisumbing, and Soundararajan, "What Dimensions of Women's Empowerment  Matter Most for Child Nutrition?' IFPRI Discussion Paper 01192

Women's empowerment can be a fairly vague (their preferred word: complex) term, so it is nice to see the authors breaking various dimensions of it down to see which are correlated with better outcomes. From the abstract: "Results from logit models indicate that both a greater degree of women’s empowerment and greater maternal endowments [read: height and education] are associated with better long-term nutritional status of children [in Bangladesh]. Attitudes toward domestic violence have an effect on child stunting and mobility; participation in decisionmaking is an important influence on dietary diversity. Consistent with previous studies, maternal height and maternal schooling decrease the probability of stunting, and maternal schooling is positively associated with dietary diversity. While these are not immediate measures of empowerment, they are positively associated with child nutritional outcomes and reflect prior investments in women and girls." However, they have almost no control variables in the regressions, so it is uncertain how much is due to these factors directly, and how much is the fact they signal correlation with socio-economic status or other factors.

De Paoli and Mendola, "Does International Migration Increase Child Labor?" Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano Development Studies Working Paper 339.

An interesting data combination allows them to look out how out-migration of workers from different skills impact local labor markets, and how those impacts affect some 200,000 children studied in 38 different countries. They find that allowing low-skilled workers to emigrate increases local wages for the parents, reducing child labor. It might have also been the case that it raised the wage for child labor, which would increase child labor, but this does not seem to be a significant factor. They also see that female emigration reduces child labor by more than male emigration. "According to our estimates, a 10% increase in the migration rate decreases the probability of child labor by 1.2 percentage points (p.p.) and the total time of weekly work by 7.3 hours." I count 209 reported regressions and, at first glance at least, the vast majority tell the same overall story.

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