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The role of maternal cognitive ability on child health

  • Rubalcava, Luis N.
  • Teruel, Graciela M.

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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 2 (2004)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 439-455

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:2:y:2004:i:3:p:439-455
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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  1. Duncan Thomas, 1990. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 635-664.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
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