Cognitive Skills Gaps in India: Can (Late) Nutrition Ameliorate Them?
FRB of St. Louis Working Paper No. 2012-051B
36 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2013
Date Written: October 17, 2013
This paper explores the (late) nutrition-cognition link using novel panel data from India for very young children. We estimate a value-added model of cognitive development that corrects for biases in the previous literature. Moreover, we use exposure to the national Mid Day Meal Scheme interacted with a non-linearity in how birth year exogenously affects the probability of enrollment in public schools as an instrumental variable. We find that a 1-standard-deviation increase in height-for-age at 5 years of age (i.e., beyond the 1,000-day window of opportunity) leads to cognitive test scores 11 to 14 percent of a standard deviation higher at age 8. This positive and significant effect supports the recent strand of literature on catch-up growth. Our analysis also suggests that providing low-caste children with the average nutritional status of their upper-caste counterparts would close around one-fourth of the existing caste cognitive differentials for boys. For girls, the gap is closed by half.
Keywords: cognitive outcomes, nutrition, children and test score gaps
JEL Classification: J13, J15, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation