Poster Paper: Violence and Children Outcomes: The Case of Children Exposed to Boko Haram

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mofioluwasademi Odunowo, Texas A&M University

Exposure to negative shocks in utero and early childhood is negatively correlated with child development and health. This study examines the intent-to-treat effects of early life conditions on child development, by exploiting temporal and spatial variation in violent attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Using UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys for Nigeria and the Demographic and Health Surveys, I find that those exposed to the attacks were shorter and lagged in cognitive and motor skills development. These effects are pronounced in those exposed in utero. The results are robust to different specification checks. I test for selection to ensure that areas exposed to the conflict are not those more likely to have children with lower development. I find no evidence of selection; comparing outcomes of violent and non-violent states in periods before the violence started. I also check for heterogeneous effects and find no significant differences across gender except girls’ cognitive abilities are more affected than boys. The evidence suggests that these effects could be channeled through limited access to basic amenities, as there was mass destruction of houses and public facilities, malnutrition, sickness and less investment in children. I conclude that the effects of early life exposure on child health and development could help explain the non-negligible impacts in the long run.

This paper contributes to two strands of literature: the effects of early life conditions on children outcomes and the non-monetary cost of violent conflicts. Studies have shown that children health have long-run consequences on adult health and labor market outcomes. Therefore, it is important to understand at what stages children are most vulnerable to shocks, the mechanism of the effects and provide remediation to the damage. Results from this research would inform governments and other stakeholders that the cost of conflict is beyond fatalities and infrastructural damage. Survivors of the violence are not without scars and this has large implications, especially on children. Some of these implications are on children health, childhood hunger, well-being, school readiness and student achievement. International donor organizations building infrastructure and providing basic supplies to affected areas should not neglect the areas highlighted in this research when providing assistance and remediation.