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Are returns to mothers' human capital realized in the next generation?: The impact of mothers' intellectual human capital and long-run nutritional status on children's human capital in Guatemala


  • Behrman, Jere R.
  • Murphy, Alexis
  • Quisumbing, Agnes R.
  • Yount, Kathryn


"Many prior studies find significant cross-sectional positive ordinary least squares (OLS) associations between maternal human capital (usually maternal schooling attainment) and children's human capital (usually children's schooling, but in some cases children's nutritional status). This paper uses rich Guatemalan longitudinal data collected over 35 years to explore several limitations of these “standard” estimates. The preferred estimates developed herein suggest that (1) maternal human capital is more important than suggested by the standard estimates; (2) maternal cognitive skills have a greater impact than maternal schooling attainment on children's biological human capital; and (3) for some important indicators of children's human capital, maternal biological capital has larger effect sizes than maternal intellectual capital (schooling and cognitive skills). These results imply that breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, malnutrition, and intellectual deprivation through investments in women's human capital may be more effective than previously suggested, but it will require approaches that account for dimensions of women's human capital beyond just their schooling. Effective interventions to improve women's biological and intellectual human capital often begin in utero or in early childhood; thus, their realization will take longer than if more schooling were the only relevant channel." from authors' abstract

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  • Behrman, Jere R. & Murphy, Alexis & Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Yount, Kathryn, 2009. "Are returns to mothers' human capital realized in the next generation?: The impact of mothers' intellectual human capital and long-run nutritional status on children's human capital in Guatemala," IFPRI discussion papers 850, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:850

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. World Bank, 2003. "Reaching the Rural Poor : A Renewed Strategy for Rural Development," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14084, June.
    2. Blandford, David & Orden, David, 2008. "United States: Shadow WTO Agricultural Domestic Support Notifications," IFPRI discussion papers 821, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Frances Cleaver, 1999. "Paradoxes of participation: questioning participatory approaches to development," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(4), pages 597-612.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yamauchi, Futoshi & Yohannes, Yisehac & Quisumbing, Agnes, 2009. "Natural disasters, self-insurance and human capital investment : evidence from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Malawi," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4910, The World Bank.
    2. Marcel Fafchamps & Forhad Shilpi, 2014. "Education and Household Welfare," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(1), pages 73-115.
    3. Barrientos, Armando & Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel, 2011. "Social transfers and chronic poverty: objectives, design, reach and impact," MPRA Paper 30465, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    Maternal human capital; Cognitive skills; Nutritional status; Child outcomes; Poverty; Women;

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