Child mortality and fertility in Colombia: individual and community effects

Health Policy Educ. 1982 Mar;2(3-4):305-48. doi: 10.1016/0165-2281(82)90015-7.


The education of a mother is strongly and positively correlated with the survival rate of her children. This paper combines household data from the Colombian Census of 1973 and characteristics of the 900 residential areas in Colombia, to test various hypotheses concerning the mechanism by which mother's education and public policies affect child survival and the distribution of health benefits resulting from policy interventions. The hypothesis is advanced that education provides people with skills in acquiring and decoding new information and thus effectively lowers the costs of using more beneficial child health and contraceptive technologies. Since a primary function of health and family planning programs is to disseminate information on these same technologies, the hypothesis is tested that mother's education and these program interventions may substitute for each other in improving child health and reducing family size. The empirical analysis confirms that in urban areas the availability of medical services, family planning activities, transportational infrastructure and climate, in addition to mother's education, are associated with child mortality ratios and fertility within a birth cohort of mothers. The least educated mothers are the most strongly affected, in terms of their reduced fertility and increased child survival rates, by the local urban health programs. The evidence is, thus, consistent with the substitution hypothesis. No effects of program interventions and medical facilities are found on rural populations, though both child mortality ratios and fertility are lower for more educated rural women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Colombia
  • Educational Status*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mortality*
  • Mothers*
  • National Health Programs*
  • Regression Analysis