The Effect of Health Insurance on Child Nutritional Outcomes. Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design in Peru

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August 2022
Paper author(s): 
Noelia Bernal
Joan Costa-Font
Patricia Ritter
Education - Health

Although a significant number of middle and low-income countries have expanded access to subsidized health insurance, it still is unclear whether these insurance expansions improve children’s health. This paper exploits quasi-random variation from an insurance expansion targeted at poor households in Peru to investigate its effects on nutrition related children’s health. We find that access to insurance reduces childhood obesity and exerts positive and economically significant effects on some preventive health care utilization and behaviours. That is, we show that insurance eligibility improves children’s regular growth check-ups and deworming treatments, consistent with an increased awareness of children’s weight and height and improvements on preventive health behaviours: namely, an increase in the duration of breastfeeding, and a substitution of the provision of food rich in carbohydrates for food rich in proteins. In contrast, we do not find any significant effect on other outcomes that are found to be sensitive to other interventions.


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