In 1984, the world was shocked at the scale of a famine in Ethiopia that caused over half a million deaths, making it one of the worst in recent history. The mortality impacts are clearly significant. But what of the survivors? This paper provides the first estimates of the long-term impact of the famine 20 years later, on the height of young adults aged 19–22 years who experienced this severe shock as infants during the crisis. An innovative feature of the analysis is that famine intensity is measured at the household level, while impacts are assessed using a difference-in-differences comparison across siblings, and compared with an IV cross-section, using rainfall as an instrument for the shock. We find that by adulthood, affected children who were aged of 12-36 months at the peak of the crisis are significantly shorter than the older cohort, and their unaffected peers, by at least 5 cm. There are no significant effects on those in utero during the crisis, although we cannot rule out that for this cohort, the selection effect dominates scarring. Indicative calculations show that for the affected group such height loss may lead to income losses of around 5% per year over their lifetime. The evidence also suggests that the relief operations at the time made little difference to those who survived.
Dercon, S., & Porter, C. (2014). Live Aid Revisited: Long Term Impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian Famine on Children. Journal of the European Economic Association, 12(4), 927-948. https://doi.org/10.1111/jeea.12088