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Are There Nutrient-based Poverty Traps? Evidence on Iron Deficiency and Schooling Attainment in Peru


  • Chong, Alberto
  • Cohen, Isabelle
  • Field, Erica
  • Nakasone, Eduardo
  • Torero, Maximo


A key question in development economics is whether nutritional deficiencies generate intergenerational poverty traps by reducing the earnings potential of children born into poverty. To assess the causal influence on human capital of one of the most widespread micronutrient deficiencies, supplemental iron pills were made available at a local health center in rural Peru and adolescents were encouraged to take them up via classroom media messages. Results from school administrative records provide novel evidence that reducing iron deficiency results almost immediately in a large and significant improvement in school performance. For anemic students, an average of 10 100mg iron pills over three months improves average test scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of grade progression by 11%. Supplementation also raises anemic students’ aspirations for the future. Both results indicate that cognitive deficits from iron-deficiency anemia contribute to a nutrition-based poverty trap. Our findings also demonstrate that, with low-cost outreach efforts in schools, supplementation programs offered through a public clinic can be both affordable and effective in reducing rates of adolescent IDA.

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  • Chong, Alberto & Cohen, Isabelle & Field, Erica & Nakasone, Eduardo & Torero, Maximo, 2014. "Are There Nutrient-based Poverty Traps? Evidence on Iron Deficiency and Schooling Attainment in Peru," MPRA Paper 61301, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:61301

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
    2. Eliana Garces & Duncan Thomas & Janet Currie, 2002. "Longer-Term Effects of Head Start," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 999-1012, September.
    3. Sarah Baird & Aislinn Bohren & Berk Ozler & Craig McIntosh, 2014. "Designing Experiments to Measure Spillover Effects," Working Papers 2014-11, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    4. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Marianne Bertrand & Leigh L. Linden & Francisco Perez-Calle, 2011. "Improving the Design of Conditional Transfer Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Education Experiment in Colombia," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 167-195, April.
    5. Gustavo J. Bobonis & Edward Miguel & Charu Puri-Sharma, 2006. "Anemia and School Participation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
    6. Macours, Karen & Vakis, Renos, 2009. "Changing households'investments and aspirations through social interactions : evidence from a randomized transfer program," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5137, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Orazio Attanasio & Costas Meghir & Emily Nix, 2015. "Human Capital Development and Parental Investment in India," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2026R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jul 2017.
    2. Pascaline Dupas & Edward Miguel, 2016. "Impacts and Determinants of Health Levels in Low-Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 22235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    Poverty traps; iron deficiency; RCTs; education attainement;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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