Early childhood nutrition and academic achievement: a longitudinal analysis

Early childhood nutrition and academic achievement: a longitudinal analysis

Whether malnutrition among young children impedes their acquisition of academic skills

This paper investigates the nutrition-learning nexus using a unique longitudinal data set, which follows a large sample of Philippine children from birth until the end of their primary education.

Finds that malnourished children perform more poorly in school, even after correcting for the effects of unobserved heterogeneity both across and within households. Findings conclude that:

  • heterogeneity in learning endowments, home environment, or parental“tastes” for that matter, cannot fully explain why malnourished children perform relatively poorly in school
  • results thus support a causal link between nutrition and academic success
  • selection bias due to delayed enrollment, which has up to now been ignored in the education production function literature, turns out to be quite important
  • primary school enrollment of malnourished children tends to be delayed, probably because they are deemed unready for school at the minimum age of enrollment
  • analysis suggests that the relationship between nutrition and learning, though significant statistically, is not likely to be of overriding importance either for nutrition policy or in accounting for economic growth


Discussion paper brief is available at: http://www.cgiar.org/ifpri/divs/fcnd/dp/dp68.htm

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