Constitutional Social and Environmental Human Rights, and Child Health Outcomes in Latin America

Matsuura, Hiroaki (2016). 'Constitutional Social and Environmental Human Rights, and Child Health Outcomes in Latin America' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract This paper analyzes the health effects of introducing four different constitutional human rights (health, free and compulsory education, adequate living (or welfare) and environment) and the American Convention of Human Rights (ACHR) into national constitution and jurisprudence in Latin America, where human rights litigations are particularly active. By using retrospective fertility surveys conducted in 15 Latin American countries from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and government tax and social expenditure data, I compare the survival of infants born to the same mother before and after the introduction of four different constitutional human rights and the ACHR to disentangle the effects of these rights from that of changes in other country-level characteristics. The major results of this paper are as follows. (1) No constitutional social and environmental rights significantly change the total amount and composition of government spending and tax structure. (2) Introducing a right to health into national constitution is associated with a 2.6 percent subsequent reduction in infant deaths among poor mothers, but not associated with infant deaths among the general population.  (3) The right to education, adequate living standards, environment and the ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights are not associated with a reduction in infant deaths. (4) The effects of a health right found in this paper are robust after allowing for government spending on health, education, social security and welfare, which indicates that the allocation of government health spending rather than an absolute amount of spending induced by the constitutional right to health might be important for reducing infant deaths among poor mothers.

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