Child health inequality and opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Working Paper 2020-557


For 33 Sub-Saharan countries, we use comparable household surveys to estimate child health inequality and the part of inequality caused by factors (circumstances) such as family background, the mother socio-demographic and anthropometric factors, household structure, household facilities and the region of residence. We perform this analysis for children below 5 years old, paying special attention to inequality differences by cohorts: from 0-1 up to 4-5 years old. Our measure of child health is the standardized height-for-age z-score corrected by the age (in months) and gender. We show that child health inequality is systematically lesser for the cohort of 4-5 years old than for the younger cohorts, and we do not find evidences that this result is caused by a mortality-selection bias. However, the aforementioned set of circumstances is impeding a further reduction in child health inequality. Indeed, health inequality caused by these factors (its ratio with respect to total inequality) has risen along the age distribution in more than 80% of the countries analyzed. We show that family background, followed by the household facilities and the place of residence of the child, contribute to explaining this evolution of child health in SSA along the age distribution.

Authors: David PĂ©rez-Mesa, Gustavo A. Marrero , Sara Darias-Curvo.

Keywords: Child health inequality, family background, child age distribution, Sub-Saharan Africa.
JEL: I14, I15, O10, P52