Three Essays in Development and Health Economics
Alam, Shamma Adeeb
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This dissertation is on three essays on issues in development and health economics. In these essays, I try to examine how different health issues affect economic outcomes and vice versa. I examine individual and household responses to different economic and health issues in Bangladesh and Tanzania. In the first two chapters, I examine how different shocks affect family's fertility decisions and decision to make investments on their children in Tanzania. In the third chapter, I examine how information regarding dangers of pesticide affects the likelihood of pesticide exposure for farmers in Bangladesh. In the first chapter, I examine how parental illness affects child labor and schooling outcomes using panel data from Tanzania. Prior literature provides limited empirical evidence on the impact of parental illness on child labor and schooling outcomes. I examine if parental illness causes households to reallocate children's time from school to work. I find that a father's illness hinders child schooling by decreasing attendance and hours spent in school. These effects on schooling are substantially greater for severe illnesses. There is also evidence that a father's illness has long-term impact on child education, as it decreases their likelihood of completing primary school and leads to fewer total years of schooling. However, a father's illness has no effect on child labor. In contrast, a mother's illness does not affect child education, but does cause a small increase in children's work. Surprisingly, parental illness does not have a differential impact by children's gender. Additionally, illness of other household members, such as grandparents, adult siblings, and child siblings, has no effect on children's schooling. Thus, overall, there is no evidence that parental illness or illness of other household members affects children's schooling through increased child labor. Instead, the results suggest that only illness of fathers, who are typically the primary income earners in Tanzanian households, reduces household income and severely decreases the family's ability to afford child education. In the second chapter, which is a joint work with Claus Portner, we examine the relationship between household income shocks and fertility decisions. Using panel data from Tanzania, we estimate the impact of agricultural shocks on contraception use, pregnancy, and the likelihood of childbirth. To account for unobserved household characteristics that potentially affect both shocks and fertility decisions we employ a fixed effects model. Households significantly increase their contraception use in response to income shocks from crop loss. Furthermore, pregnancies and childbirth are significantly delayed for households experiencing a crop shock. We argue that these changes in behavior are the result of deliberate decisions of the households rather than income shocks' effects on other factors that in influence fertility, such as women's health status, the absence or migration of spouse, and dissolution of partnerships. In the third chapter, which is a joint work with Hendrik Wolff, we examine how different information sources influence precautionary behavior when using pesticide and likelihood of pesticide exposure. Modern agriculture heavily depends on the use of pesticides and has successfully increased productivity, but also led to increasing concerns regarding farmers' health. Mishandling of pesticides continues to pose a serious health problem for farmers especially in developing countries. This chapter describes supply side and demand side regulations for pesticide handling, health outcomes and adoption of health technologies using a detailed household level dataset from Bangladesh. The dataset is unique as it spans the chain from: `where do farmers obtain information from', `which precautionary tools (i.e. masks, gloves) are used' and `what are subsequent health outcomes after spraying'. Previous studies hypothesized that pesticide sellers in developing countries misguide farmers regarding pesticide use. On the other hand, government field extension workers reduce pesticide exposure by training farmers in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. In our dataset we cannot confirm these hypotheses. In contrast, we find that those famers that use information from pesticide sellers increase the adoption of precautionary tools. These same farmers also enjoy subsequently improved health outcomes. Further, our results show that the agricultural extension program does not significantly impact technology adoption or health. We find instead evidence of social learning as peer farmers, especially those trained in handling pesticides, have a substantial influence. We conclude with policy recommendations.
- Economics