In developing countries where medical infrastructure, service delivery systems, and the markets for health insurance are underdeveloped, one important mechanism to cope with the consequences of health shocks is the intra-household substitution of labor. This paper studies the impact of short-term illness shocks on labor supply and wage earnings of prime-aged individuals using data from agricultural households in India. It also documents the compensating intra-household labor supply responses of other non-ill members of the household. We find that an illness shock reduces an individual's monthly wage earnings by 7.1% via the decline in the individual's days of employment in the labor market. Further, an illness shock to the household head causes a compensating increase in the wage labor supply of the wife. An illness shock to the wife, however, induces the household head to devote more time to domestic activities. The compensating labor supply responses are only partially able to insure the loss in total wage income of the household. Our results indicate that the gender-based specialization of labor weakens in the event of an illness shock.
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