Is It Economic Growth or Socioeconomic Development? a Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Determinants of Infant Mortality

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Some recent studies suggest narrowly defined economic growth is the key to reducing the infant mortality rate. A host of new studies emerged in reaction to this assertion. These new studies emphasize the role of increased health expenditures in reducing infant mortality rates. Analyzing the infant mortality rate using cross-sectional data for provinces in Turkey, this paper first ranks provinces by their level of socioeconomic development, and then tests both linear and nonlinear regression models to explore the relationship between the infant mortality rate and the indicators of socioeconomic development. This paper contributes to the infant mortality literature by providing additional insights into the determinants of infant mortality using consistently measured cross-sectional data for the provinces within a developing country. Our findings indicate that per capita gross domestic product is a significant determinant of the infant mortality rate, but the relationship is not a linear one.

JEL Classifications: I12, R29, O18

Keywords: Infant Mortality, Principal Component, Income Distribution, Socioeconomic Development

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INTRODUCTION

The infant mortality rate is considered one of the most important socioeconomic development indicators. Yet the debate on the determinants of the infant mortality rate has not been solved. Infant mortality rates vary substantially (1) by country, (2) over time within a country, (3) and/or across the provinces within a country in a given time. What, then, accounts for the large variation in infant mortality rates across countries or provinces, or over time?

Answers to this question may vary by study design and study methodology. On one hand, findings suggest that determinants of infant mortality depend on whether a research study is dealing with a developed or a developing country. Within the developing countries, stages of development would have an effect on the causes of infant mortality (Kuznets, 1955; Rostow, 1971).

On the other hand, study methodologies, which may involve varying degrees of measurement biases because of international comparisons and topical focuses, may generate different results with respect to what determines infant mortality rates. Four methods are widely used in this research area: (1) survey-based studies that aim at measuring individual-level characteristics, (2) international cross-sectional comparisons, (3) time-series international cross-sectional studies, and (4) cross-sectional studies within a country.

Taking into account the measurement bias associated with international comparisons, this study aims at exploring determinants of infant mortality rates across the provinces within a county. After reviewing the literature, it is our understanding that this type of study is more suited to generate effective public policies to reduce infant mortality than an international cross-sectional analysis that would generate a broad general policy conclusion.

Recent controversies regarding the determinants of the infant mortality rate have important public policy dimensions. A World Bank study suggests that economic growth (measured as the percent growth of per capita gross domestic product) is the key to reducing the infant mortality rate (Filmer and Pritchett, 1997). The policy implication of this conclusion suggests shifting resources from health to other sectors. A host of new studies emerged in reaction to this assertion. These new studies emphasize the role of increased health expenditures as a cost-effective way to reduce infant mortality rates in developing countries (Hanmer et al., 2003). The continuing debate on infant mortality warrants a critical reexamination of these multiple claims from a broader socioeconomic development perspective.

This paper analyzes the infant mortality rate using cross-sectional data for 81 provinces in Turkey. …