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(Job Market Paper) Going into Labor: Earnings vs. Infant Survival in Rural Africa

By Elsa V. Artadi, Lawrence Katz, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Michael Kremer, Ilyana Kuziemko, Emily Oster and Monica Singhal


In Sub-Saharan Africa, variation in weather and nutrition causes children born in certain months to be up to three percentage points more likely to die. This seasonal variation is large relative to the annual average of eleven percent infant mortality. Parents do not always time births for low-mortality months. Agricultural cycles may help explain why: in some areas, low-mortality months coincide with high demand for women’s labor. Thus, parents are faced with a stark trade-off between their newborn’s health and family income. I show that families who live in areas with a larger trade-off tend to choose birth months that are worse for infant survival. Families who face less of a trade-off – those less dependent on female wages or subject to less seasonal labor demand – choose lower mortality months. Access to family planning exacerbates these effects by helping families target a specific birth-month more accurately. The results suggest that policies that smooth seasonality in labor demand and consumption could substantially improve infant survival

Topics: and Mark Rosenzweig for their intellectual guidance. I would also like to thank Randy Akee, Joseph Aldy
Year: 2005
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