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Essays on Trade, Infrastructure, and Human Capital Outcomes in Developing Countries

  • Author(s): Panda, Pallavi
  • Advisor(s): Deolalikar, Anil B
  • et al.

This dissertation presents three chapters on child health outcomes in India and sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of this research is to analyze how large-scale policies have intended or unintended impacts on the lives of people living in underdeveloped regions. In the first chapter, I study the effects of a change in trade policy, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), on infant and neonatal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. Increased exports and increasing opportunities for employment of mothers may contribute towards improving health of the child, due to rising incomes (income effect) or may deteriorate health of the child as the mother stays away from home (substitution effect). Empirically, I find that the increase in exports from 30 sub-Saharan countries help in reducing infant mortality by 9% of the sample mean or around 7 deaths per 1000 using the most comprehensive health data available for these countries, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). This decrease in infant deaths operates through increasing health seeking behavior of mother, increased possession of assets, and increased maternal labor supply in non-agricultural sectors. The second chapter analyzes the paradox of decreasing infant mortality but not a corresponding improvement in malnutrition in India over time. We look at the effects of mortality selection on anthropometric scores in India using three rounds of National Family and Health Surveys (NFHS) and find evidence of significant negative mortality selection. Specifically, children with sample average characteristics that survive, with controls for unobservable characteristics of groups of women, have lower HAZ scores than a child randomly drawn from the population. In the third chapter, I delve into the impact of rural road creation (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, PMGSY) on infant and neonatal mortality and sex-ratio in India. To study this effect at the village-level a unique micro dataset using nationwide health data surveys and online road construction data is created. Using two different empirical approaches, I find no significant changes in these statistics after the road creation in the short term. These findings will help in conceptualizing future policy actions to effectively improve child health for these developing economies.

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