Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Long-Term Effects of the 1959-1961 China Famine

This new NBER working paper demonstrates how economists are not restricted to studying exchange rates and inflation.

I am always in two minds when I see a paper like this. It is an interesting topic with important conclusions. It is also a unique experiment that tells us more about biological processes than merely economics.

Given the sex imbalance in China between males and females the conclusions seem at odds with situation on the ground but that is another blog post entirely.

A paper worth reading. Contact a friendly blogger via email if you are unable to access this paper from the NBER.

"Long-Term Effects of the 1959-1961 China Famine: Mainland China and Hong Kong"
NBER Working Paper No. W13384

Columbia University - Department of Economics,
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Email: da2152@columbia.edu
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=172748

Columbia University - Department of Economics
Email: le93@columbia.edu
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=298099

Chinese University of Hong Kong - Department of
Email: lhongbin@cuhk.edu.hk
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=251685

Chinese University of Hong Kong - Department of
Economics, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
Email: jszhang@cuhk.edu.hk
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=172991

Full Text: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1013514

ABSTRACT: This paper estimates the effects of maternal malnutrition exploiting the 1959-1961 Chinese famine as a natural experiment. In the 1% sample of the 2000 Chinese Census, we find that fetal exposure to acute maternal malnutrition had compromised a range of socioeconomic outcomes, including: literacy, labor market status, wealth and marriage market outcomes. Women married spouses with less education and later, as did men, if at all. In addition, maternal malnutrition reduced the sex ratio (males to females) in two generations - those prenatally exposed and their children - presumably through heightened male mortality. This tendency toward female offspring is interpretable in light of the Trivers-Willard (1973) hypothesis, according to which parents in poor condition should skew the offspring sex ratio toward daughters. Hong Kong natality micro data from 1984-2004 further confirm this pattern of female offspring among mainland-born residents exposed to malnutrition in utero.

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