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Household allocation decisions and child health: can behavioral responses to vitamin A supplementation programs explain heterogeneous effects?


Biological research predicts that giving children vitamin A supplements will significantly reduce mortality from diarrheal and respiratory infections, but evaluations of supplementation programs in the field have produced a wide range of estimated mortality effects. In this paper, I explain these differences by differential household behavioral responses to programs. I find evidence that the mortality effect varies by observable determinants of household allocation to children. Additionally, I find that households improve malaria prevention for children that receive vitamin A supplements and that this effect varies by the same household allocation determinants.

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  1. Analysis of the bargaining discussed in the background section above is still possible in this general model. It is assumed that the children of interest are too young to take control of their own bargaining and thus the bargaining over allocation to children analyzed here is between parents. Mother’s bargaining power is incorporated into determinants of a child’s weight in the household decision-making process (θ in the model).

  2. This method of construction means that estimating deviations from mean household vitamin A status and mean household mortality will require observations for three or more living children in the household within the age range being analyzed. Since this is not feasible, I cannot perform a household fixed effects analysis for the mortality analysis. I can use household fixed effects for the analysis of bed net provision, because in this analysis I only examine living children and thus no imputation of vitamin A status is necessary.


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I would like to thank Robert Kaestner, Darren Lubotsky, Lorens Helmchen, the participants at the IGPA Health Economics and Health Policy Seminar, and two anonymous referees for their comments and discussion.

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Correspondence to Benjamin Yarnoff.

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Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang

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Yarnoff, B. Household allocation decisions and child health: can behavioral responses to vitamin A supplementation programs explain heterogeneous effects?. J Popul Econ 24, 657–680 (2011).

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  • Vitamin A
  • Child mortality
  • Household allocation

JEL Classification

  • J19
  • I18
  • J18