Ethnicity as a Barrier to Childhood and Adolescent Health Capital in Tanzania: Evidence from the Wage-Height Relationship


  • The authors would like to thank several anonymous referees and participants of the 2010 Allied Social Science Associations NEA/AFEA joint paper session on ‘African Diasporas and Economic Development of Africa’, 4 January 2010 for critical yet helpful comments on earlier drafts of this research.


This paper considers whether or not in Tanzania, ethnicity conditions access to health and nutrition during childhood and adolescence. We estimate height-augmented Mincerian earnings functions with data from the 2004 Tanzanian Household Worker Survey. Instrumental variable parameter estimates reveal that when the effects of unobserved investments in health and nutrition during childhood and adolescence on adult height are accounted for, the labor market return on height varies across ethnic groups in our sample. This suggests that in Tanzania ethnicity is a constraint on effective health care policy as there is ethnic discrimination in the provision of health and nutrition investment during childhood and adolescence that constrains adult height, living standards and economic growth. As such, public health policy in sub-Saharan Africa could potentially be more effective through reforms that eliminate any ethnic bias in the provision of health capital during childhood/adolescence.