Channels of impoverishment due to ill-health in rural Ethiopia

Zelalem Y. Debebe, Anagaw D. Mebratie, Robert Sparrow, Marieke Dekker, Getnet Alemu, Arjun S. Bedi

Research output: Working paperAcademic


We analyse the effects of ill-health on household economic outcomes in Ethiopia, using three years of household panel data and event history interviews. We examine the immediate effects of a variety of ill-health measures on health expenditure and labour supply, the subsequent household coping responses, and finally the effect on household income and consumption. We find evidence of substantial economic risk in terms of increased health expenditure and reduced agricultural productivity. Households cope by resorting to intra-household labour substitution, hiring wage labour, borrowing and depleting assets. While households are able to maintain food consumption, we observe imperfect insurance of non-food consumption. This effect is larger for households with the lowest ability to self-insure. Maintaining current consumption through borrowing and depletion of assets and savings is unlikely to be sustainable and displays the need for interventions that work towards reducing the financial consequences of ill-health.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThe Hague
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge the financial support of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO-WOTRO), grant number W07.45.103.00


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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