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Linking Health, Nutrition and Wages: The Evolution of Age at Menarche and Labor Earnings among Adult Mexican Women

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  • Felicia Marie Knaul
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    This study uses a human capital framework to evaluate the impact on labor market productivity of investments in health and nutrition in Mexico. The research extends the existing literature by proposing age at menarche as an effective indicator for analyzing the impact on productivity in the labor market of health and nutritional investments during childhood and adolescence. As in the case of adult height and body mass index, indicators that have been widely used in the analysis of the health-productivity relationship, menarche is a variable that reflects the secular increase in the level of economic development of many countries in the region. Age at menarche has shown a steady decrease of approximately 3-4 months per decade in many countries over the past 150 years. This decrease is a reflection of a variety of socio-economic factors and in particular nutritional status as a child. Despite the parallels between menarche and adult height as indicators of cumulative health status, age at menarche has apparently not been previously incorporated into the analysis of the impact of health on economic development. The paper considers the correlates of age at menarche in the framework of a reduced form health production function. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of policy-sensitive health variables as determinants of age at menarche, and hence long-run female health. Hourly wages are used to measure the impact on labor market productivity of investment in health and nutrition early in the life cycle. Age at menarche is presented as a proxy for certain aspects of the health and nutritional components of human capital. The integrated human capital framework that underlies the theoretical model is developed in Schultz (1997), and applied in such works as Schultz (1996), Schultz and Tansel (1997) and Strauss and Thomas (1997).

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    Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department in its series Research Department Publications with number 3053.

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    Date of creation: Apr 1999
    Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:3053
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    1. Behrman, Jere R. & Wolfe, Barbara L., 1987. "How does mother's schooling affect family health, nutrition, medical care usage, and household sanitation?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-2), pages 185-204.
    2. Schultz, T. Paul & Tansel, Aysit, 1997. "Wage and labor supply effects of illness in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana: instrumental variable estimates for days disabled," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 251-286, August.
    3. Glewwe, P. & Jacoby, H., 1992. "Estimating the Determinants of Cognitive Achivement in Low-Income Countries," Papers 91, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
    4. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
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