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Sibling death clustering in India : genuine scarring vs unobserved heterogeneity

By Wiji Arulampalam and Sonia Bhalotra


Data from a range of environments indicate that the incidence of death is not randomly distributed across families but, rather, that there is a clustering of death among siblings. A natural explanation of this would be that there are (observed or unobserved) differences across families, e.g. in genetic frailty, education or living standards. Another hypothesis that is of considerable interest for both theory and policy is that there is a causal process whereby the death of a child influences the risk of death of the succeeding child in the family. Drawing language from the literature on the economics of unemployment, the causal effect is referred to here as state dependence (or scarring). The paper investigates the extent of state dependence in India, distinguishing this from family level risk factors that are common to siblings. It offers some methodological innovations on previous research. Estimates are obtained for each of three Indian states, which exhibit dramatic differences in socio-economic and demographic variables. The results suggest a significant degree of state dependence in each of the three regions. Eliminating scarring, it is estimated, would reduce the incidence of infant mortality (among children who are born after the first child) by 9.8% in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 6.0% in West Bengal and 5.9% in Kerala

Topics: HA, RJ101
Publisher: [Department of Economics, University of Bristol]
Year: 2003
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1467-985X.2006.00425.x
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