Eggs Versus Chewable Vitamins: Which Intervention Can Increase Nutrition and Test Scores in Rural China?

Posted: 4 Apr 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2013

See all articles by Max Kleiman-Weiner

Max Kleiman-Weiner

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Renfu Luo

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) - Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP)

Linxiu Zhang

Chinese Academy of Sciences - Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy

Yaojiang Shi

Shaanxi Normal University

Alexis Medina

Stanford University

Scott Rozelle

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies

Date Written: November 30, 2012

Abstract

Despite growing wealth and a strengthening commitment from the government to provide quality education, a significant share of students across rural China still have inadequate access to micronutrient-rich regular diets. Such poor diets can lead to nutritional problems, such as iron-deficiency anemia, that can adversely affect attention and learning in school. Large scale policies in Northwestern China have attempted to tackle these nutritional problems using eggs. The overall goal of this paper is to assess the impact of the government's egg distribution program by comparing the effect on anemia rates of an intervention that gives students an egg per day versus an intervention that gives students a chewable vitamin per day. We will also assess whether either intervention leads to improved educational performance among students in poor areas of rural China. To meet this goal, we report on the results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving over 2600 fourth grade students from 70 randomly-chosen elementary schools in 5 of the poorest counties in Gansu Province in China's poor Northwest region. The design called for random assignment of schools to one of two intervention groups, or a control group with no intervention. One intervention provided a daily chewable vitamin, including 5 mg of iron. The other mimicked the government policy by providing a daily egg. According to the findings of the paper, in the schools that received the chewable vitamins, hemoglobin (Hb) levels rose by more than 2 g/L (over 0.2 standard deviations). The standardized math test scores of students in these schools also improved significantly. In schools that received eggs, there was no significant effect on Hb levels or math test scores. Overall, these results should encourage China's Ministry of Education (MOE) to look beyond eggs when tackling nutritional problems related to anemia in an education setting.

Suggested Citation

Kleiman-Weiner, Max and Luo, Renfu and Zhang, Linxiu and Shi, Yaojiang and Medina, Alexis and Rozelle, Scott, Eggs Versus Chewable Vitamins: Which Intervention Can Increase Nutrition and Test Scores in Rural China? (November 30, 2012). China Economic Review, Vol. 24, pp. 165-176, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2243890

Max Kleiman-Weiner (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Renfu Luo

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) - Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) ( email )

Building 917, Datun Road
Beijing 100101
China

Linxiu Zhang

Chinese Academy of Sciences - Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy ( email )

Anwai, Beijing, 100101
China

Yaojiang Shi

Shaanxi Normal University ( email )

Chang'an Chang'an District
199 South Road
Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 710062
China

Alexis Medina

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Scott Rozelle

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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