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

See all articles by Florencia López Bóo

Florencia López Bóo

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Young Lives, Department of International Development, University of Oxford; IZA

Maria E. Canon

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Date Written: October 17, 2013

Abstract

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

López Bóo, Florencia and Canon, Maria E., Cognitive Skills Gaps in India: Can (Late) Nutrition Ameliorate Them? (October 17, 2013). FRB of St. Louis Working Paper No. 2012-051B, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2346928 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2346928

Florencia López Bóo

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) ( email )

1300 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States

Young Lives, Department of International Development, University of Oxford ( email )

Queen Elizabeth House
3 Mansfield Road
Oxford, OX1 3TB
United Kingdom

IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Maria E. Canon (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis ( email )

411 Locust St
Saint Louis, MO 63011
United States

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