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Econ Hum Biol. 2008 Dec;6(3):446-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2008.07.008. Epub 2008 Aug 9.

Determinants of well-being in North Korea: evidence from the post-famine period.

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University of Tuebingen, Department of Economics, Tuebingen, Germany.


North Korea has survived the breakdown of the communist bloc and has been immune to the democratization process of the 1990s. In spite of national famines and economic collapse, the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang maintains a firm grip on its power. Reliable information on the population's biosocial welfare is scarce. Using height and weight data of 5991 North Korean pre-school children measured in 2002, we investigate determinants of height-for-age z-score (HAZ), weight-for-age z-score (WAZ) and weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) as an indicator for child health. We find a statistically significant impact of the age of the child and of the mother, as well as the sex of the child on HAZ and WAZ. In contrast, social status and wealth proxies at the individual and household level are not statistically significant possibly because of errors in these variables. We do not find a consistent effect for geographic regions or for rural-urban residents either. Yet, urban provinces seem to be better-off. Most importantly, we find that children living in families who benefit from food aid of the United Nations are healthier in terms of HAZ, WAZ and WHZ than those depending on the government. Hence, further delivery of United Nations food aid is likely to mitigate the effects of the ongoing food crisis in North Korea.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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