Inequality of opportunity in child health in the Arab world and Turkey

Inequality of opportunity in child health in the Arab world and Turkey

Growth and development in childhood is determined by both genotype (nature) and phenotype (nurture), with the influence of the latter being particularly crucial during a child’s first few years. This paper examines the patterns of inequality of opportunity in health and nutrition outcomes, such as height-for-age and weight-for-height, for children under five in selected Arab countries and Turkey, using Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data.

The document reveals that a variety of different trends are evident across countries in both overall inequality and in the share of inequality of opportunity. Yet, inequality of opportunity is shown to contribute substantially to the inequality of child health outcomes. For example, total inequality of both height and weight measures rose significantly in Egypt in the period from 2003 to 2008 and so did the share of inequality of opportunity. Identically, Morocco shows rising total inequality, but with a declining share of inequality of opportunity since 1992.

As a result, the authors conclude that although children throughout the examined countries face unequal opportunities to develop healthily, there is scope for improving the situation. Indeed, the differences between countries show that inequality is not necessarily a function of absolute economic development, and that countries can, with appropriate public policies, improve both the absolute level of child health and diminish inequality of opportunity.

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