Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Wei-Chiao Huang

Second Advisor

Dr. Donald Meyer

Third Advisor

Dr. Debasri Mukhetjee

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ahmed Hussen


Understanding the constraints that households face when making decisions on fertility, education, and health is beneficial for effective interventions aimed at enhancing investments in human capital, promoting gender equity, and reducing poverty. This dissertation consists of four essays that analyze the nature, performance, and determinants of fertility, child education, and nutritional status in a developing economy.

The first essay identifies peculiar constraints, including gender preference and income uncertainty that households face when making fertility and schooling choices. The underlying assumption in the theoretical analysis is that in the absence of formal risk and capital markets, households may revert to informal risk sharing arrangements with their children. In addition, parents take into account gender differences in labor market outcomes. Given this premise, fertility and schooling choices are analyzed using expected utility and parental and children's lifetime income functions. The results show that gender preference augments the effect of income uncertainty on fertility. In this setting, family size and composition have gender-differentiated impacts on education.

The second and third essays test the theoretical results using the Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey data. The second essay estimates alternative specifications of count data models of lifetime fertility goals for different sample categories. The models are controlled for possible sample selection bias due to non-response in the data. Results confirm that the presence of gender preference augments the impact of income uncertainty on fertility, particularly in rural households.

The third essay examines children's school enrollment status and highest grade attained. Results from binary and ordered probit as well as fixed effect models show that disaggregating the household by gender and age reveals important information on the relationship between family size and education. Most importantly, the effects of family size and composition are larger on the girls' education than on the boys'.

The fourth essay analyzes the effect of maternal education and its pathways on child nutrition. The pathways examined are health-seeking behavior, knowledge of health and family planning, reproductive behavior, and socioeconomic status. Logistic regression results show that maternal education and its pathways are more relevant and robust in explaining chronic than acute child malnutrition.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access