A shot at economic prosperity: Long-term effects of India’s childhood immunization program on earnings and consumption expenditure

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Routine childhood vaccinations are among the most cost-effective child health interventions. In recent years, the broader benefits of vaccines, which include improved cognitive and schooling outcomes, have also been established. This paper evaluates the long-term economic benefits of India’s national program of childhood vaccinations, known as the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). We combine individual-level data from the 68th round of the National Sample Survey of India (2011–12) with district-wise data on the rollout of UIP from 1985 to 1990. We employ age-district fixed-effects regression models to compare the earnings and per capita household consumer spending of 21-to 26-year-old adults who were born in UIP-covered districts vis-à-vis non-UIP districts between 1985 and 1990. We find that exposure to UIP in infancy increases weekly wages by 13.8 percent (95 percent CI: 7.6–20.3 percent, p < 0:01) and monthly per capita household consumption expenditure by 2.9 percent (95 percent CI: 0.7–5.0 percent, p < 0:01). Program exposure also reduces the probability that an individual’s household relies on agriculture as the main source of income by 1.9 percent (95 percent CI: 0.0–3.5 percent, p < 0:01). The findings are robust to several specifications including varying study duration and accounting for potential migration. The effects vary by sex, location, and caste group.