On Tuesday, February 23, 2010, The Center for Global Development presented a seminar on When the Lights Go Out: Permanent Health Effects of Transitory Shocks, featuring Alfredo Burlando, a Ph.D. candidate at Boston University.
Abstract: What is the fallout of a blackout? Relying on 350 household surveys and 20,000 birth records collected during field work, I show that a month-long blackout in Zanzibar reduced average birth weights for children born seven to nine months later and increased the probability of low birth weight. Low birth weights have permanent, negative effects on infant growth, learning, and other adult outcomes. The most likely cause of the reduction in birth weights is maternal under-nutrition caused by the temporary reduction in earnings during the blackout. Only women who were in the early stages of pregnancy were affected; they may not have known they were pregnant at the time of the blackout, suggesting that visibly pregnant women maintained proper nutrition despite of the income loss. Alternative explanations are examined, including the possible effects of a temporary fertility shift. It is shown that the blackout increased births, and the increase was more pronounced among women (teenagers, older women) who are more likely to deliver small babies.
Read When the Lights Go Out: Permanent Health Effects of Transitory Shocks paper (pdf, 644k)