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Parents' education, mothers' vocabulary, and cognitive development in early childhood: Longitudinal evidence from Ecuador


  • Schady, N.


Objectives: I estimated the association between parents' education, mothers' vocabulary, and early child cognitive development in a sample of poor children in rural Ecuador. Methods: I used regression analysis to estimate the association between parents' education, mothers' vocabulary, and the vocabulary, memory, and visual integration skills of children at early ages, controlling for possible confounders. The study is based on a longitudinal cohort of children in rural Ecuador (n=2118). Results: The schooling and vocabulary levels of mothers were strong predictors of the cognitive development of young children. Household wealth and child's height, weight, and hemoglobin levels explained only a modest fraction of the observed associations. The vocabulary levels of mothers and children were more strongly correlated among older children in the sample, suggesting that the effects of a richer maternal vocabulary are cumulative. Conclusions: Differences in children's cognitive outcomes start very early, which has important implications for the intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality. Programs that seek to increase early stimulation for disadvantaged children, perhaps through parenting programs or high-quality center-based care, hold promise.

Suggested Citation

  • Schady, N., 2011. "Parents' education, mothers' vocabulary, and cognitive development in early childhood: Longitudinal evidence from Ecuador," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 101(12), pages 2299-2307.
  • Handle: RePEc:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2011.300253_6
    DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300253

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    Cited by:

    1. Karen Macours & Norbert Schady & Renos Vakis, 2012. "Cash Transfers, Behavioral Changes, and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 247-273, April.
    2. Samuel Berlinski & Norbert Schady, 2015. "Daycare Services: It’s All about Quality," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Samuel Berlinski & Norbert Schady (ed.), The Early Years, chapter 4, pages 91-119, Palgrave Macmillan.
    3. Rubio-Codina, Marta & Attanasio, Orazio P. & Meghir, Costas & Varela, Natalia & Grantham-McGregor, Sally, 2013. "The Socio-Economic Gradient of Child Development: Cross-Sectional Evidence from Children 6-42 Months In Bogota," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6546, Inter-American Development Bank.
    4. Iqbal, Syedah Aroob & Patrinos, Harry Anthony, 2023. "Learning during the Pandemic: Evidence from Uzbekistan," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1292, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    5. Michael Marmot & Ruth Bell & Angela Donkin, 2013. "Tackling Structural and Social Issues to Reduce Inequities in Children’s Outcomes in Low- to Middle-income Countries," Papers indipa708, Innocenti Discussion Papers.
    6. Norbert Schady & Jere Behrman & Maria Caridad Araujo & Rodrigo Azuero & Raquel Bernal & David Bravo & Florencia Lopez-Boo & Karen Macours & Daniela Marshall & Christina Paxson & Renos Vakis, 2015. "Wealth Gradients in Early Childhood Cognitive Development in Five Latin American Countries," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(2), pages 446-463.
    7. Robert Rogers & Doan Hai Ma & Tra Nguyen & Ngoc Anh Nguyen, 2019. "Early childhood education and cognitive outcomes in adolescence: a longitudinal study from Vietnam," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(6), pages 658-669, November.
    8. Avner Seror, 2019. "Human Development, Social Interactions, and Identity Formation," AMSE Working Papers 1924, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, France.
    9. M. Caridad Araujo & Yyannu Cruz-Aguayo & Analia Jaimovich & Sharon Lynn Kagan, 2015. "Drawing Up an Institutional Architecture," IDB Publications (Book Chapters), in: Samuel Berlinski & Norbert Schady (ed.), The Early Years: Child Well-Being and the Role of Public Policy, edition 1, chapter 7, pages 179-202, Inter-American Development Bank.
    10. De Neve, Jan-Walter & Kawachi, Ichiro, 2017. "Spillovers between siblings and from offspring to parents are understudied: A review and future directions for research," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 56-61.
    11. Jere R. Behrman & Dante Contreras & Maria Isidora Palma & Esteban Puentes, 2024. "Socioeconomic Disparities for Early Childhood Anthropometrics and Vocabulary and Socio-emotional Skills: Dynamic Evidence from Chilean Longitudinal Data," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 43(1), pages 1-28, February.
    12. Lopez Boo, Florencia & Canon, Maria Eugenia, 2014. "Reversal of gender gaps in child development: Evidence from young children in India," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(1), pages 55-59.
    13. M. Caridad Araujo & Mariano Bosch & Norbert Schady, 2017. "Can Cash Transfers Help Households Escape an Intergenerational Poverty Trap?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Poverty Traps, pages 357-382, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Magdalena Bendini & Lelys Dinarte, 2020. "Does Maternal Depression Undermine Childhood Cognitive Development? Evidence from the Young Lives Survey in Peru," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 17(19), pages 1-18, October.
    15. Berthelon, Matias & Contreras, Dante & Kruger, Diana & Palma, María Isidora, 2020. "Harsh parenting during early childhood and child development," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 36(C).
    16. Contreras, Dante & Delgadillo, José & Riveros, Gabriela, 2019. "Is home overcrowding a significant factor in children’s academic performance? Evidence from Latin America," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 1-17.
    17. Jose Rosero, 2012. "On the Effectiveness of Child Care Centers in Promoting Child Development in Ecuador," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-075/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    18. Nadezhda V. Baryshnikova & Florian Ploeckl & Nasantogtokh Yunren, 2023. "Does Unsatisfactory Subjective Well‐Being of School Children Decrease their Cognitive Skill Development?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 99(S1), pages 50-66, December.
    19. Julieta Vera Rueda, 2021. "When fathers are gone: the consequences of paternal absence during the early years," Working Papers halshs-02978563, HAL.
    20. Ning Wei & Lülin Zhou & Wenhao Huang, 2022. "Does an upward intergenerational educational spillover effect exist? The effect of children’s education on Chinese parents’ health," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 69-89, March.
    21. Mariachiara Di Cesare & Ricardo Sabates, 2013. "Access to antenatal care and children’s cognitive development: a comparative analysis in Ethiopia, Peru, Vietnam and India," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 58(3), pages 459-467, June.
    22. Lena Kuhn & Chengfang Liu & Tianyi Wang & Renfu Luo, 2021. "Home Environment and Early Development of Rural Children: Evidence from Guizhou Province in China," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(11), pages 1-18, June.
    23. Abufhele, Alejandra & Bravo, David & López Bóo, Florencia & Soto-Ramirez, Pamela, 2022. "Developmental Losses in Young Children from Pre-primary Program Closures during the COVID-19 Pandemic," IZA Discussion Papers 15179, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    24. Berthelon, Matias & Contreras, Dante & Kruger, Diana & Palma, María Isidora, 2018. "Violence during Early Childhood and Child Development," IZA Discussion Papers 11984, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    25. Julieta Vera Rueda, 2021. "When fathers are gone: the consequences of paternal absence during the early years," PSE Working Papers halshs-02978563, HAL.

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