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Brains versus Brawn: Labor Market Returns to Intellectual and Health Human Capital in a Poor Developing Country

  • Jere R. Behrman
  • John Hoddinott
  • John A. Maluccio


  • Reynaldo Martorell

Previous studies report that adult height has significant associations with wages even controlling for schooling. But schooling and height are imperfect measures of adult cognitive skills (“brains”) and strength (“brawn”); further they are not exogenous. Analysis of rich Guatemalan longitudinal data over 35 years finds that proximate determinants—adult reading comprehension skills and fat-free body mass—have significantly positive associations with wages, but only brains, and not brawn, is significant when both human capital measures are treated as endogenous. Even in a poor developing economy in which strength plausibly has rewards, labor market returns are increased by brains, not brawn.

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Paper provided by Middlebury College, Department of Economics in its series Middlebury College Working Paper Series with number 0907.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0907
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