Health and income are strongly correlated both within and across countries, yet the extent to which improvements in income have a causal effect on health status remains controversial. We investigate whether short-term fluctuations in aggregate income affect infant mortality using an unusually large data set of 1.7 million births in 59 developing countries. We show a large, negative association between per capita GDP and infant mortality. Female infant mortality is more sensitive than male infant mortality to negative economic shocks, suggesting that policies that protect the health status of female infants may be especially important during economic downturns.
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© 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology