Early Life Adversity, Biological Adaptation, and Human Capital
80 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 10 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 17, 2017
Early life shocks result in physiological changes that allow infants and children to adapt to surrounding environments. We examine the implications of one form of biological adaptation - immune system learning - for human capital formation. Using two case studies, where interventions to reduce the risk of an infectious disease – malaria – were only temporarily successful, we show that reduced early life exposure to infectious diseases may substantially reduce cognitive development and educational attainment if children are later re-exposed. Our findings highlight the importance of capturing the critical tradeoffs generated by biological adaptation to early adversity in human capital models.
Keywords: human capital production, child development, cognition, malaria, eradication, immunity, adaptive responses, complementarity
JEL Classification: I10, I14, I18, J13, J24
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