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Maternal Literacy and Child Malnutrition in India


  • Borooah, Vani


This study uses unit-record data on over 50,000 rural children, from the sixteen major states of India, to analyse the determinants of the risks of severe stunting and of being severely underweight. The importance of this study derives from the fact that the prevalence of under-nourishment in India is, even relative to other poor countries, shockingly high. The study focuses on the role of maternal literacy in reducing the risk of child malnourishment. It concludes that when the mother is literate, real benefits flow to children in terms of reduced risk; the same benefits, however, do not flow when the father, but not the mother, is literate. Literate mothers make more effective use of health-care institutions, like anganwadis and hospitals. Consequently, the benefits to children from expanding the supply of such institutions are greater when these institutions interact with mothers who are literate.

Suggested Citation

  • Borooah, Vani, 2009. "Maternal Literacy and Child Malnutrition in India," MPRA Paper 19833, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:19833

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Vani Borooah, 2000. "The Welfare of Children in Central India: Econometric Analysis and Policy Simulation," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(3), pages 263-287.
    2. Geeta Gandhi Kingdon & Jeemol Unni, 2001. "Education and Women's Labour Market Outcomes in India," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2), pages 173-195.
    3. Basu, Kaushik & Foster, James E, 1998. "On Measuring Literacy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(451), pages 1733-1749, November.
    4. Lavy, Victor & Strauss, John & Thomas, Duncan & de Vreyer, Philippe, 1996. "Quality of health care, survival and health outcomes in Ghana," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 333-357, June.
    5. Borooah, Vani, 2003. "Births, Infants and Children: an Econometric Portrait of Women and Children in India," MPRA Paper 19620, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Duncan Thomas & John Strauss & Maria-Helena Henriques, 1991. "How Does Mother's Education Affect Child Height?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 183-211.
    7. Foster, Andrew D & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1996. "Technical Change and Human-Capital Returns and Investments: Evidence from the Green Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 931-953, September.
    8. Behrman, Jere R & Wolfe, Barbara L, 1984. "The Socioeconomic Impact of Schooling in a Developing Country," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(2), pages 296-303, May.
    9. Thomas, Duncan & Strauss, John, 1992. "Prices, infrastructure, household characteristics and child height," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 301-331, October.
    10. Gibson, John, 2001. "Literacy and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 155-166, January.
    11. Ravallion, Martin & Wodon, Quentin, 2000. "Does Child Labour Displace Schooling? Evidence on Behavioural Responses to an Enrollment Subsidy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 158-175, March.
    12. Smith, Lisa C. & Haddad, Lawrence James, 1999. "Explaining child malnutrition in developing countries," FCND discussion papers 60, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    13. Caldwell, John C., 1993. "Health transition: The cultural, social and behavioural determinants of health in the Third World," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 125-135, January.
    14. 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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    More about this item


    Malnutrition; Maternal Literacy; Bivariate Probit Model;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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