DP9033 | Live aid revisited: long-term impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian famine on children

Publication Date

01/07/2012

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Abstract

In 1984, the world was shocked at the scale of a famine in Ethiopia that caused over half a million deaths, making it one of the worst in recent history. The mortality impacts are clearly signi cant. But what of the survivors? This paper provides the first estimates the long-term impact of the famine twenty years later, on the height of young adults aged 19-22 years who experienced this severe shock as infants during the crisis. An innovative feature of the analysis is that famine intensity is measured at the household level, while impacts are assessed using a di fference-in-di fferences comparison across siblings, and compared with an IV cross-section, using rainfall as an instrument for the shock. We find that by adulthood, a ffected children who were aged of 12-36 months at the peak of the crisis are signi cantly shorter than the older cohort, and their una ffected peers, by at least 5cm. There are no signi ficant e ffects on those in utero during the crisis, and we cannot rule out that for this cohort, the selection e ffect dominates scarring. Indicative calculations show that for the aff ected group such height loss may lead to income losses of around 5% per year over their lifetime. The evidence also suggests that the relief operations at the time made little di fference.