Disease and Gender Gaps in Human Capital Investment: Evidence from Niger's 1986 Meningitis Epidemic

January 01, 2017

Belinda Archibong and Francis Annan


This paper examines whether disease burdens, especially prevalent in the tropics, contribute significantly to widening gender gaps in educational attainments. We estimate the impact of sudden exposure to the 1986 meningitis epidemic in Niger on girls’ education relative to boys. Our results suggest that increases in meningitis cases during epidemic years significantly reduce years of education disproportionately for primary school-aged going girls in areas with higher meningitis exposure. There is no significant effect for boys in the same cohort and no effects of meningitis exposure for non-epidemic years. Our findings have broader implications for climate-induced disease effects on social inequality.

Published: American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, May 2017, 107(5): 1–7