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Child health inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Pérez-Mesa, David and Marrero, Gustavo A. and Darias-Curvo, Sara (2021): Child health inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Abstract

This paper contributes to the understanding of child health inequalities in Sub-Saharan African (SSA), the poorest and the second most unequal region in the world. Since health inequality begins at birth, correcting it during childhood is crucial to improving future opportunities for development and fighting against other forms of inequality during adulthood. For 33 SSA countries, we estimate child health inequality by cohorts: from 0-1 up to 4-5 years old. We pay special attention to the part of inequality explained by factors widely used in the literature, such as family background, the mother socio-demographic and anthropometric characteristics, household structure, household facilities and the region of residence. Our starting measure of child health is the standardized height-for-age z-score. We show that child health inequality is systematically lesser for the older cohort than for the younger one. However, the aforementioned set of factors is impeding a further reduction in health inequality, as far as the share caused by these factors has risen along the age distribution in more than 80% of the countries. We do not find evidences that these results are caused by a mortality-selection bias. Instead, we find that family background, followed by household facilities and the region of residence contribute to explaining the differences observed in child health inequality along the age distribution in SSA.

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