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Discussion Paper no. 02-10

Abstract

This study is premised on the hypothesis that ethnic specific socio-cultural practices such as dietary taboos and food avoidances on mothers and infants, as well as perceptions of disease aetiology and treatment patterns may be salient to infant mortality differentials in Ghana. To inform policy the paper explores if there are significant ethnic differences in the risk of infant death, and whether such differences are due to intrinsic cultural norms or socio-economic disparities. Using data on 3298 recent births from the 1998 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey, the bivariate results indicated significant ethnic differences. Relative to Asante children, the risk of death was significantly higher among children whose mothers were Mole-Dagbanis, Grussi, Gruma, Dagarti and Fanti. In the multivariate models, however, the ethnic differences (Fanti excepted) disappeared once socio-economic variables were controlled. This implies that observed ethnic differences in infant morality mainly reflect socio-economic disparities among groups rather than intrinsic cultural norms. To improve child survival, efforts should be geared towards enhancing the socio-economic status of women from the disadvantaged ethnic groups.


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