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Maria Del Roser Alvarez Klee (University of Barcelona) - The long-term health effects of humanitarian crisis in Henan province, China (1949-78)

Date and Time: May 2nd, 2017, 10:00 - 11:30 am

Room: A 101 in the Economics Building (Museum)


During the Maoist period (1949-76) outstanding achievements in health translated into the beginning of the demographic and epidoemiological transition in china. Yet, the period is also characterized by the presence of humanitarian crisis by using mean heights data from cohorts born between 1949 and 1976 in Henan province.

We use this region as a case study considering that not only was one of the most affected provinces in China during the GLF famine, but also in 1975 the region suffering a major flood considering as the greatest hydrological failure in world history, based on international standards. Preliminary findings show that the greatest effect on the mean height of the population was nor during the GLF or 1975 flood, but during the first years of the Cultural Revolution (CR). We attribute three main explanations to these results. First, we do not depict a reduction of the mean height during the GLF famine due to survival selection. Second, while we depict a 0.9 decrease of the mean height for the birth cohorts born in 1975 and 1976, this has been proven not to be statistically significant (p=0.441). The estimation must be taken with caution considereing that the great flood of 1975 took place in only 4 out of 18 prefectures in the province. Therefore, this was a very localized humanitarian crisis, to which using provinical data might blur the effects. On the other hand, cohorts born during the initial stages of the CR had a mean height reduction of 1.7 cm. In this case, we find it to be statistically significant (p=0.047). We attribute such deterioration of the biological standards of living to the weakening of the health system during the CR in Henan province.

About the speaker

Maria Del Roser Alvarez Klee is an associate professor at the Department of Economic History of the University of Barcelona, Spain.

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