The Impact of Natural Disasters on Child Health and Investments in Rural India

37 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2012

See all articles by Ashlesha Datar

Ashlesha Datar

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

Jenny X. Liu

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Sebastian Linnemayr

RAND Corporation

Chad Stecher


Date Written: May 5, 2011


Natural disasters are becoming more frequent worldwide and there is growing concern that they may adversely affect short- and long-term health outcomes in developing countries. Prior research has primarily focused on the impact of single, large disaster events but very little is known about how small to moderate disasters, which are more typical, affect population health. This paper presents one of the first investigations of the impact of small and moderate disasters on childhood morbidity, physical growth, and immunizations by combining household data from three waves of the Indian National Family and Health Survey with an international database of natural disasters (EM-DAT). It finds that exposure to a natural disaster in the past month increases the likelihood of acute illnesses such as diarrhea, fever, and acute respiratory illness in children under 5 year by 9-18%. Exposure to a disaster in the past year reduces height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores by 0.12-0.15 standard deviations, increases the likelihood of stunting and underweight by 7%, and reduces the likelihood of having full age-appropriate immunization coverage by nearly 18%. It also finds that disasters’ effects vary significantly by gender, age, and socioeconomic characteristics. Most notably, the adverse effects on growth outcomes are much smaller among boys and infants.

Suggested Citation

Datar, Ashlesha and Liu, Jenny X. and Linnemayr, Sebastian and Stecher, Chad, The Impact of Natural Disasters on Child Health and Investments in Rural India (May 5, 2011). RAND Working Paper Series WR- 886, Available at SSRN: or

Ashlesha Datar (Contact Author)

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

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Jenny X. Liu

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

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United States

Sebastian Linnemayr

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

Chad Stecher

Economics ( email )

Westwood, CA
United States

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