Working Paper

Development Aid and Infant Mortality

Date Published

May 1, 2017


Andreas Kotsadam, Gudrun Østby, Siri Aas Rustad, Andreas Forø Tollefsen, Henrik Urdal



Kotsadam, Andreas, Gudrun Østby, Siri Aas Rustad, Andreas Forø Tollefsen, and Henrik Urdal. 2017. Development Aid and Infant Mortality. AidData Working Paper #39. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.

Update: A revised version of this paper has been published in World Development


While there is a vast literature studying the effects of development aid (DA) on economic growth, there are far fewer comparative studies addressing how aid affects health outcomes. Furthermore, while much attention has been paid to country-level effects of aid, there is a clear knowledge gap in the literature when it comes to systematic studies of aid effectiveness below the country-level. Addressing this gap, we undertake what we believe is the first systematic attempt to study how DA affects infant mortality at the subnational level. We match new geographic aid data from the AidData on the precise location, type, and time frame of bilateral and multilateral aid projects in Nigeria with available georeferenced survey data from five Nigerian Demographic and Health Surveys, covering information on 294,835 births in the period 1953-2013. Using quasi-experimental approaches, with mother fixed-effects, we are able to control for a vast number of unobserved factors that may otherwise be spuriously correlated with both infant mortality and DA. The results indicate very clearly that geographical proximity to aid projects reduces neonatal, infant, and child mortality. Moreover, aid contributes to reduce systematic inter-group, or horizontal, inequalities in a setting where such differences loom large. In particular, we find that aid more effectively reduces infant mortality in less privileged groups like children of Muslim women, and children living in rural, and in Muslim-dominated areas. Finally, there is evidence that aid projects are established in areas that on average have lower infant mortality than non-aid locations, suggesting that there are biases resulting in aid not necessarily reaching those populations in greatest need.

Featured Authors

Siri Aas Rustad

Siri Aas Rustad

Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Henrik Urdal

Henrik Urdal

Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Related Datasets

No items found.

Related Blog Posts

No items found.

Related Events

No items found.