NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Mortality from Nestlé's Marketing of Infant Formula in Low and Middle-Income Countries

Jesse K. Anttila-Hughes, Lia C.H. Fernald, Paul J. Gertler, Patrick Krause, Bruce Wydick

NBER Working Paper No. 24452
Issued in March 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Development Economics, Health Economics

Intensive and controversial marketing of infant formula is believed to be responsible for millions of infant deaths in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), yet to date there have been no rigorous analyses that quantify these effects. To estimate the impact of infant formula on infant mortality, we pair country-specific data from the annual corporate reports of Nestlé, the largest producer of infant formula, with a sample of 2.48 million births in 46 LMICs from 1970-2011. Our key finding is that the availability of formula increased infant mortality by 9.4 per 1000 births, 95%CI [3.6, 15.6] among mothers without access to clean water, suggesting that unclean water acted as a vector for the transmission of water-borne pathogens to infants. We estimate that the availability of formula in LIMCs resulted in approximately 66,000 infant deaths in 1981 at the peak of the infant formula controversy.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24452

 
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