Maternal education, health care system and child health: Evidence from India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Global evidence suggests that maternal education is a crucial determinant of a child's health. The health system moderates the maternal education and child health relationship. However, there is sparse evidence on which direction health system moderates this relationship, especially in developing nations because of limited data availability. In order to address this gap in the evidence, we study this question in the Indian context, where the health system is still in a transitioning phase. We use two nationally representative surveys, the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey (2015–16) and the fourth round of the District Level Health Survey data (2012–13), to estimate the effects of maternal education and the health care system on child death and child anaemia. We map district-level data on health infrastructure and human resources information with individual-level information on health outcome, insurance, and antenatal care coverage along with other socio-economic characteristics. In accordance with global evidence, we find that maternal education remains an important determinant of child health outcomes in India too. However, the association between maternal education and child health outcomes weakens in the presence of a poor health care system. Health system improvement first benefits the already privileged in the Indian context. Yet, it should not hinder the policy focus either on the improvement of women's education or the medical care system.