The Impact of Improving Nutrition During Early Childhood on Education among Guatemalan Adults*


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     This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants TW-05598 on ‘Early Nutrition, Human Capital and Economic Productivity’ and HD-046125 on ‘Education and Health Across the Life Course in Guatemala’, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant 5R01HD045627-05 on ‘Intergenerational Family Resource Allocation in Guatemala’, and NSF/Economics grants SES 0136616 and SES 0211404 on ‘Collaborative Research: Nutritional Investments in Children, Adult Human Capital and Adult Productivities’. We thank Alexis Murphy and Meng Wang for excellent research assistance in the preparation of the data for this article. We also thank participants for their comments during presentations at the 2003 Northeast Universities Development Consortium Annual Meetings, the 2003 Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association Annual Meetings, the 2003 Inter-American Development Bank Social Policy Network Conference, the 2004 Population Association of America Annual Meetings, the 2005 Minnesota International Economic Development Conference, the 2005 Econometric Society World Congress, the 2006 Mini-Conference on Development Economics in Quebec City, the World Bank, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Center for Global Development, Dartmouth College, George Washington University, University of California-Riverside, University College of London, University of Southern California, the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts, Wilfrid Laurier University and Williams College. Finally, we thank Jörn-Steffen Pischke and two anonymous referees for very useful comments on earlier versions of this article.


Using a longitudinal survey from rural Guatemala, we examine the effect of an early childhood nutritional intervention on adult educational outcomes. An intent-to-treat model yields substantial effects of an experimental intervention that provided highly nutritious food supplements to children, a quarter century after it ended: increases of 1.2 grades completed for women and one quarter SD on standardised reading comprehension and non-verbal cognitive ability tests for both women and men. Two-stage least squares results that endogenise the actual supplement intakes corroborate these magnitudes. Improving the nutrient intakes of very young children can have substantial, long-term, educational consequences.