Early Life Exposure to Malaria and Cognition in Adulthood: Evidence from Mexico

Journal of Health Economics 31 (5): 767-780

45 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2010 Last revised: 12 Sep 2013

See all articles by Atheendar Venkataramani

Atheendar Venkataramani

University of Pennsylvania - Perelman School of Medicine

Date Written: July 2, 2012


This study examines the impact of early life malaria exposure on cognition in sample of Mexican adults, using the nationwide introduction of malaria eradication efforts, along with the fact that more burdened states experienced larger absolute declines in disease prevalence as a result, to identify causal impacts. The core findings are that birth year exposure to malaria eradication was associated with increases in Raven Progressive Matrices test scores and consumption expenditures, but not schooling. Additionally, cohorts born after eradication both entered and exited school earlier than their pre-eradication counterparts. These effects were only seen for men and explanations for this are assessed. Collectively, these findings suggest that improvements in infant health help explain secular increases in cognitive test scores, that better cognition may link early life health to adulthood earnings, and that human capital investments through childhood and young adulthood respond sensitively to market returns to early life endowment shocks.

Keywords: Malaria, Cognition, Early Childhood, Mexico, Eradication, Flynn Effect, Parental Investments

JEL Classification: I10, I12, J13, O11, O15

Suggested Citation

Venkataramani, Atheendar, Early Life Exposure to Malaria and Cognition in Adulthood: Evidence from Mexico (July 2, 2012). Journal of Health Economics 31 (5): 767-780. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1679164 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1679164

Atheendar Venkataramani (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Perelman School of Medicine ( email )

423 Guardian Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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