Exodus from Hunger : The Long-Term Health Consequences of the 1959-1961 Chinese Famine

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-166
Journal / PublicationBiodemography and Social Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


This article examines the long-term health consequences of China’s 1959–1961 famine by comparing people who stayed in Guangdong and endured the famine with people who crossed the border to immigrate to Hong Kong and thus escaped the famine. Based on data from the Hong Kong Panel Study of Social Dynamics (HKPSSD) and the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), we focused on two health indicators—body mass index (BMI) and self-rated health (SRH)—of the cohort born before 1959. Our results show that the stayers who experienced the famine have a lower BMI than the emigrants, and they are likely to have a poor SRH. The difference-in-differences (DID) estimates further show that the famine exposure reduced the odds of giving higher ratings of SRH by 60 and 42 percent, respectively, for the 1923–1940 and 1941–1958 birth cohorts. For the 1923–1940 cohort, famine exposure also reduced their BMI by 1.5 points.