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The Role of Maternal Cognitive Ability in Child Health

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  • Luis Rubalcava
  • Graciela Teruel

Abstract

The literature on child health suggests mother`s schooling is a key determinant of child health. Little is known of how other sources of maternal human capital contribute to her children`s health. This paper investigates the differential returns on child health of three sources of maternal human capital: schooling, cognitive ability and childhood background. Conditional on schooling and mother`s height, we first analyze the effect of maternal cognitive ability on her children`s health. Next, we relax the assumption of mother`s schooling and reasoning ability as predetermined variables and study the extent to which both returns reflect observed mother`s childhood endowments. We conclude by investigating the importance of mother`s schooling and cognitive ability in enhancing her offspring`s health during first-time motherhood. Results show maternal cognitive ability is an important factor in improving her children`s health. We find these returns robust to the inclusion of mother`s observed childhood endowments. However, estimates of mother`s schooling drop by 30 percent when we control for these variables. This suggests that unlike mother`s schooling, maternal returns to cognitive ability on child health are less likely to reflect mother`s childhood background. Finally, we find maternal reasoning ability to be an important factor in improving her children`s health in first-time motherhood. Our analysis is based on information gathered in the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS-1), which administered Raven`s Colored Progressive Matrices, and collected anthropometric outcomes. Our results focus on child height-for-age (0-17 years) z-scores as long-run health outcomes.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department in its series Research Department Publications with number 3192.

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Date of creation: Mar 2004
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Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:3192

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  1. Alderman, Harold, et al, 1996. "The Returns to Endogenous Human Capital in Pakistan's Rural Wage Labour Market," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 58(1), pages 29-55, February.
  2. Strauss, J. & Thomas, D., 1995. "Health, Nutrition and Economic development," Papers 95-23, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  3. Strauss, John & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Human resources: Empirical modeling of household and family decisions," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 34, pages 1883-2023 Elsevier.
  4. Barrera, Albino, 1990. "The role of maternal schooling and its interaction with public health programs in child health production," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 69-91, January.
  5. Wolfe, Barbara L. & Behrman, Jere R., 1982. "Determinants of child mortality, health, and nutrition in a developing country," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 163-193, October.
  6. Paul Glewwe, 1999. "Why Does Mother's Schooling Raise Child Health in Developing Countries? Evidence from Morocco," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 124-159.
  7. Paul Glewwe & Hanan Jacoby, 1994. "Student Achievement and Schooling Choice in Low-Income Countries: Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(3), pages 843-864.
  8. Thomas, D., 1989. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Papers 586, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  9. Duncan Thomas, 1994. "Like Father, like Son; Like Mother, like Daughter: Parental Resources and Child Height," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(4), pages 950-988.
  10. Wolfe, Barbara L. & Behrman, Jere R., 1987. "Women's schooling and children's health : Are the effects robust with adult sibling control for the women's childhood background?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 239-254, September.
  11. Behrman, Jere R. & Deolalikar, Anil B., 1988. "Health and nutrition," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 631-711 Elsevier.
  12. Bhargava, Alok & Fox-Kean, Melanie, 2003. "The effects of maternal education versus cognitive test scores on child nutrition in Kenya," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 309-319, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
  2. Jere R. Behrman & Emmanuel Skoufias, 2004. "Correlates and Determinants of Child Anthropometrics in Latin America: Background and Overview of the Symposium," Research Department Publications 3191, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  3. Mayer-Foulkes, David, 2008. "The Human Development Trap in Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 775-796, May.
  4. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Vinha, Katja, 2012. "Climate variability and child height in rural Mexico," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 54-73.
  5. Viviane Azevedo & César P. Bouillon, 2009. "Social Mobility in Latin America: A Review of Existing Evidence," IDB Publications 6773, Inter-American Development Bank.
  6. Behrman, Jere R., 2010. "Investment in Education Inputs and Incentives," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
  7. David Mayer Foulkes & María Fernanda López Olivo & Edson Serván Mori, 2008. "Habilidades cognitivas: transmisión intergeneracional por niveles socioeconómicos," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 23(1), pages 129-156.
  8. Emmanuel Skoufias, 2012. "The Poverty and Welfare Impacts of Climate Change Quantifying the Effects, Identifying the Adaptation Strategies," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 9384, August.

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