We examine the medium- and long-term impacts of exposure to food inflation during the critical window of early life on child health. We use the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey data, matching each child's early life months since conception with the corresponding monthly local food price data. We find that exposure to 10% staples food inflation during the first trimester of the fetus increases the risk of childhood stunting by almost 1.9%. We further find that the impacts are non-linear, reflecting the complicated biological mechanisms through which nutrition affects human growth. There is also considerable heterogeneity in the impacts.
Since the dawn of the new millennium, significant stride has been made in terms of reducing under-five mortality. While advances in medicine, such as vaccination, considerably reduced communicable diseases, many countries in African, Latin American and elsewhere in the less-developed world continue to grapple with food price hikes that cause hunger and food shortages. The impacts of such food price hikes during the critical periods of early life-the period between inception and the first 1,000 days after birth-on child survival has not been well understood. Using a uniquely constructed data from Ethiopia that combines the Demographic and Health Survey and high-frequency (monthly) food retail prices over 10 years period, we examine the impacts of in-utero exposure to food price inflation on child survival. Follow survival events since inception, we estimate the causal impacts of exposure to malnutrition during each month of early life. The results show that exposure to 10% increase in month-on-month staple food price inflation during in-utero increases childhood mortality by up to 0.03%. Our analysis also uncovers substantial heterogeneity in the effects of early life malnutrition on child mortality depending on specific month of exposure.