This dissertation is composed of three essays under the recurring theme of women’s issues, child health and economic development. In the first chapter, I examine the effect of Child Marriage on the health outcomes of offspring in Bangladesh. I use an exogenous variation in drought and flood shocks as an instrument for Child Marriage and measure children’s health outcomes by stunting, from the height-for-age index. I develop a theoretical model to show that the decision to marry a daughter early is driven by the type of income shocks that a household is exposed to. From the empirical estimation, I find that children from Child Marriage unions are more likely to be stunted. I also find that the effect of Child Marriage is concentrated through increases in severe stunting.
In the second chapter, I estimate the impact of Child Marriage on the mortality outcomes of offspring in Bangladesh. Similar to the empirical strategy in the first chapter, I focus on the effect of an exogenous temporary shock on the marriage decision, to allow for identification of a causal impact. The results indicate that in comparison to children of later-married women, children from Child Marriage unions are more likely to die before reaching the age of five. Further, I find that the effect of Child Marriage is smaller on infant mortality. By examining the impact by gender, the results suggest that the predominant effect of Child Marriage is focused on increases in male child and infant mortality.
In the third chapter, I examine the effect of Sharia Law on the health outcomes of children in Nigeria. The measures of health outcomes are constructed from the height-for-age, weight-for-age and weight-for-height indices. I apply a difference-in-differences estimation strategy and exploit the variation in exposure to Sharia law across time and state of residence. I also explore the effect of Sharia Law on women’s empowerment. The results indicate that Sharia Law substantially increases the probability of stunting in children. In states with high enforcement of Sharia Law, children are more likely to be stunted and underweight. The results suggest a negative association between Sharia Law and women’s empowerment with respect to household and medical decision-making, control over resources and self-worth.