The Role of Maternal Cognitive Ability in Child Health
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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