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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Child health and women's asset ownership

Flag of Papua New Guinea
Several years ago, Yana Rodgers (Rutgers University) contacted me about applying for a contracting project with the Asian Development Bank using the 2009-2010 Papua New Guinea Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). Of course I said "yes" to such a great opportunity and we were offered the project soon thereafter. We worked on the project for about a year and a half. Now that the report is done, we are using the data to address research questions that came up during the report. We have several questions, each likely a stand-alone paper.

Our first paper, Women's Asset Ownership and Children's Nutritional Status: Evidence from Papua New Guinea, was recently presented at the 2017 Biennial International Health Economic Association (iHEA) Meeting (Boston, MA) and submitted to a journal for publication. We are also hopeful for a presentation at the 2018 American Economic Association Annual Meeting. You can see the iHEA presentation slides here and the draft of our paper here. The abstract is here:

This study uses household survey data from 2009-2010 to examine how women’s asset ownership is associated with children’s nutritional status in Papua New Guinea, a country with some of the most severe child malnutrition in the world.  Women’s sole ownership of assets is expected to strengthen their bargaining power within the home, which increases investments in children’s health.  Results from ordinary least squares regressions point to beneficial effects of maternal asset ownership for children’s height-for-age, weight-for-height, and weight-for-age Z-scores, even after controlling for household characteristics.  Additional results from detailed quantile regressions indicate that these effects occur primarily at the median, although in some cases the strongest impacts occur at the lowest portions of the distribution.

The primary issue addressed in the paper is the impact of mother's asset ownership on the health of her children in Papua New Guinea. The HIES data offers the opportunity to examine this issue at the individual level. Six assets are identified, along with individual ownership status, in the survey: livestock, poultry, fishing equipment, agricultural equipment, furniture, and housing. A factor analysis grouped these into what we termed assets related to 1) food production and 2) shelter.

The WHO definitions of wasting, stunting, and underweight are used to quantify child health. Surveyors took these measurements in each home for children under the age of 5.

We employed OLS and quantile regression to estimate the impact of mother's asset ownership on child health, using the z-scores for each child health metric. OLS estimates capture the "action" at the mean and the quantile estimates capture the "action" across the distribution. We used the 0.05, 0.10, 0.50, 0.90, and 0.95 quantiles. Assets entered our regressions in various, separate ways, including several indexes we devised to reduce multicollinearity.

The results suggest that mother's asset ownership matters, in a positive way, to her children's health particularly at the middle of the distribution.

Conference participants and colleagues who read our paper offered a few comments which we will likely follow up with in a future paper. Those comments included:
1) What is the impact of the father on child health?  (NOTE: Father's education was not significant.)
2) Does the father's view of female autonomy matter?

If you are interested in more details about the paper or the results, please read it using the link above.

We would appreciate your input,

Monday, July 17, 2017

First few weeks

Briggs Field, MIT

I have been fully back to training after marathon/cellulitis for two weeks and am trying to be patient and adapt to training and the weather. So far so good.

Not surprisingly I am building back strength and endurance on land and in the pool and trying to incorporate running on soft surfaces as much as possible.

Last week was what I image to be a typical one for the next month or so (although the mileage will increase over that period.) I was in Boston Sunday-Tuesday presenting a paper at the International Health Economic Association Meeting, so I got to run in some new places.

Monday was 6 x 3:00 at tempo interval pace with 2:00 jogs between. My hotel was near MIT so I used Briggs Field, their intramural grass field (real grass, not artificial turf) which spanned 2 x 3 soccer fields. Perfect! Given that I will race 2-4 cross country races this fall, practicing running on surfaces that are not smooth like a road or track is important. My paces per mile were 6:10-6:20 for each 3:00 segment which I was pleased with. On the track or road that would have been 6:00-6:10 pace for a tempo effort.
I used fields 1-9 which all connect even with the track!
Due to travel I did not do the second workout until Saturday. I had a 20:00 tempo run. I have a love/hate relationship with tempo. I hate the pain but love the results. It was a typical humid morning in Virginia and I was OK with the 6:36/mile average pace (through three miles in 6:38, 6:36, 6:34) especially since I descended slightly and did it alone. Looking back at training from this time last year (which is not always a wise thing to do as we age) I am well ahead of what I was averaging back then.

Sunday was a longish (not long for a marathon runner) 1:20 run on the hills of Fincastle which went well even on the tired legs.

What I was most excited about was my swim session! I got a new batch of workouts from Coach Brett. One of the workouts I did was a total of 5,000 yds. with a main set of:

17 x 100 kick on 1:30 for 1-5, 1:25 for 6-10, 1:20 for 11-14, and 1:15 for 15-17.
17 x 100 free with fins and paddles do the same way except on 1:35, 1:30, 1:25, and 1:20

I did it! I love swimming and working with Brett who is so positive and encouraging. Plus it builds me into a better runner. Win-win-win.

In the next post I will write about the conference in Boston and our paper.

Run & swim,

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Starting over

My blog fell into disuse! 10 months passed before I could blink. No excuses. I'm just going to get it back on track (and a face lift before too long!)

This post will focus on the running part of the Running Economist. I will save the exciting projects that I am working on and have had published recently for another post.

The good news: my fitness post knee surgery and last year's battle with vocal chord dysfunction progressed throughout the year. I got into 3:02-3:05ish marathon shape for the Wrightsville Beach Marathon (March 2017) put on by my coach Tom Clifford, but the weather did not cooperate. Most people, including me, were slowed by the heat and humidity and I ran just under 3:08 (and won the female masters division.)

Coach Clifford suggested that I recoup and try a second round at Grandma's Marathon in June. I recovered from Wrightsville Beach faster than any marathon before and had a great training cycle going into Grandma's getting into 2:58-3:02ish shape. And then....I got stuck by a thorn a week before the race.

A thorn! Yes. I made it through 20+ mile runs, countless tempo and interval sessions, 3-4 x week swim workouts, but was felled by a thorn. I have no idea how the thorn found my finger. I do not have roses. But it did and with it brought a nasty case of cellulitis. A few days before the race my entire arm was swollen and the lymph nodes in my neck were inflamed. I went to the hospital in Duluth Thursday (yes, I went to the race hopeful it would just go away!) and was put on antibiotics. I do not run well while on antibiotics, but that was better than letting the infection get worse than it already was.

I went through the motions and toed the line Saturday morning having made a deal with myself: Execute your race plan, but if your body tells you that the infection is bigger than your heart, DROP OUT. No running race is worth dying for.

A few miles in I felt weak and not my peppy self. I focused on staying positive and hoped that my body would loosen up. It was not to be. By 6 miles I needed a walk break. I took three more before I got to the drop out zone with buses to the finish at 13.75 miles. Dropping out was the best decision for me. Had I pushed through I could have spread the infection and worse. I felt OK about it knowing this and that I gave it a go. There were no "what ifs".

Tears were shed on the bus back and on the phone with Coach Clifford. I was so darn frustrated. Following his suggestion, I took a few hours to get the hurt out, and then focused on the positive and the future.

So what is the future?

Several USATF Masters races and a full cross country season. I am excited! My tentative plan is:

August 19 - FAB 5K (Roanoke) (half grass, half pavement)
August 25 - USATF Masters Road Mile National Championship (Flint, MI)
August 26 - Crim 10 Miler (Flint, MI) (...yes the next day. But I am there anyway, so why not)
September 9 - Knights Crossing (Roanoke) (XC)
October 6 - Royal Invitational (Charlotte) (XC)
October 15 - USATF Masters 5K XC National Championships (Boston)
October 28 - Runway 5K (Charlotte) (road and a MAYBE)
November 4 - USATF 5K National Championships (road and a MAYBE)
November 23 - Wrightsville Beach Turkey Trot (road)
December 9 - USATF Masters 6K XC National Championships (Lexington, KY)

I took time after Grandma's to heal (similar to recovery for a completed marathon) and started intervals and pool work two weeks ago. After a few days of feeling sluggish (the last of the antibiotics and infection?), I am back to feeling strong. With my awesome training buddy Sarah, I hit a 20:00 tempo faster than I have in at least two years despite the humidity (farty shoes by mile one) and did a broken 500 yard test set in the pool faster than I did to start last swim season. My strength from six months of marathon training is still there. Whew!

My goal is to stay positive, push my limits, and embrace the training for the rest of the year. I will make more training posts this season not because anyone is interested, but because putting it out there holds me accountable. I can be my own worst enemy in the mind game arena, so hopefully writing and posting my thoughts will keep me on the positive track when things get challenging.

I am on Strava (as Alice Kassens), so follow me!

Welcome back to the grind,