Does Famine Matter For Aggregate Adolescent Human Capital Acquisition In Sub-Saharan Africa?

Working paper 320
Julius A. Agbor and Gregory N. Price
Publication date: 
December, 2012
African Development Review

To the extent that in utero and childhood malnutrition negatively affects later stage mental and physical health, it can possibly constrain later stage human capital acquisition, which is an important driver of economic growth. This paper considers the impact of famine on aggregate adolescent human capital formation in Sub-Saharan Africa. We parameterize a joint adolescent human capital and food nutrition production function to estimate the effects of famine on primary school completion rates of individuals age 15 - 19. Mixed fixed and random coefficient parameter estimates for 32 Sub-Saharan African countries between 1980 - 2010 reveal that primary school completion rates of adolescents are proportional to the quantity of food and nutrition produced during childhood and in utero. This suggests that declines in food production and nutrition associated with famine in Sub-Saharan Africa have large negative effects on the acquisition of human capital by adolescents and on long-run material living standards. Our findings also suggest that policy makers in Sub-Saharan Africa should prioritize food security policies that prevent food shortages and famines, which would increase long-run economic growth and material living standards.

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