Household Economic Well-being and Child Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Health is both a direct component of human well-being and a form of human capital that increases an individual’s capabilities and opportunities to generate income and reduces vulnerability. It is argued that these two views are complementary, and both can be used to justify increased investment in health in developing countries. Therefore, investment in child health constitutes a potential mechanism to end the intergenerational transmission of poverty. This paper examines the empirical impact of household economic well-being on child health, and the gender differences in effects using the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo, or DRC) Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2014. A series of econometric tools are used; the control function approach appears to be the most appropriate strategy as it simultaneously removes structural parameters from endogeneity, the sample selection and heterogeneity of the unobservable variables. Results suggest a significant positive effect of household economic well-being on child health. However, the magnitude of the effect varies by gender of household head; children from households headed by males appear healthier compared to those from female-headed households. In the context of DR Congo, female-headed households often have a single parent, therefore, the economic well-being effect on child health in the male sub-sample can be considered to include the unobserved contribution of women. These results have implications for public interventions that enable women to participate in paid labour market activities as a means of improving household economic well-being, which in turn could improve child health.