Departmental Bulletin Paper Malnutrition Expectations and Precautionary Demand for Children: Evidence from Vietnam

STUEN, Eric T.  ,  HOANG, Nam Trung  ,  HOANG, Van Hong Thi

46 ( 2 )  , pp.1 - 15 , 2015-07 , 名古屋大学大学院国際開発研究科
Precautionary demand for children has long been recognized by economists as a component of household demand for children, such that households respond to the risk of children not surviving to adulthood by increasing their optimally desired family size. We examine whether such an effect exists in response to nutritional constraints. We argue that nutrition measures are suitable proxies for the expectations of parents regarding the lifetime mortality risks of their children. Using a sample of 5,966 Vietnamese households, we estimate Logit models of a birth indicator regressed on self-constructed measures of nutrient consumption and other controls. We find significant effects for calories, protein and an index of micronutrients on the likelihood that the household had a child. The micronutrient index effect is dominant, and is contingent on the health insurance status of children in the household. These findings provide initial non-experimental evidence of the relevance of nutrition on demand for children. They suggest that rising prices and disruptions to food supplies may increase population growth rates, all else equal, an indirect effect that may be moderated by agricultural and food aid policies.

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