No extant study addresses the persistent detrimental effect of in utero exposure to conflict on early child health in countries experiencing protracted conflict. I therefore estimate the impact of in utero conflict exposure on weight-for-age and height-for-age z-scores (WAZ and HAZ) by applying instrumental variable regression to information on Afghan children aged 0–59 months merged with data on district-level fatalities during the intrauterine period. The instrumental variable is constructed exploiting distance from, and violence intensity at, two conflict hot spots along the Pakistani border. Although like previous research, I find an overall negative effect of violence on WAZ and HAZ, the effect on the former is stronger for children born in districts where long-term conflict is, on average, comparatively lower. I attribute these heterogeneous effects to the fact that households living in environments of constant conflict have developed more effective coping strategies.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.