Journal Article

Religion and child health in West and Central Africa

Studies have suggested a causal link between behaviors and attitudes prescribed by religious doctrine and child health. However, religious affiliation can also be a marker of differential access to resources and living standards. Studies have found that children born to Muslims in West Africa experience worse health outcomes than children born to Christians. Despite coexisting within national borders, communities affiliated with these two religions are highly clustered geographically. This study investigates differences in child health between Christians and Muslims within 13 religiously heterogeneous West and Central African countries and explores the implications of geographic clustering and community-level religious composition for child health. The results of the study reveal substantially worse health for Muslims living within religiously homogeneous communities that are explained by region, living standards, fertility, and maternal education. In contrast, Muslims and Christians coexisting within religiously heterogeneous communities showed no differences in child health.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.