Policymakers have long argued that economic growth in developing countries will positively impact child health. We examine child nutrition in Ghana during the economic growth of the 1980s and 1990s. We find that stunting in children aged 2-35 months declined from 30% in 1988 to 21% in 1998, but increased to 27% in 2003. Wasting followed an opposite path, while underweight gradually fell from 30% to 24% during this period. We show that these different responses to economic growth reflect differences in the factors generating these outcomes. Improvement in underweight was consistent with the positive household effects of macroeconomic growth, but increase in stunting after 1998 responded to the decline in health care utilization following the reform of the health care system. Indeed, the increased negative impact of a lack of access to healthcare explains most of the decline in child linear growth. The fraction of children presenting any of the three forms of malnutrition remained stable at around 40% during this period. These findings indicate that appropriate policies are needed to ensure that economic growth leads to an improvement in child well-being.

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