Improving nutritional status through behavioral change : lessons from Madagascar
This paper provides evidence of the effects of a large-scale intervention that focuses on the quality of nutritional and child care inputs during the early stages of life. The empirical strategy uses a combination of double-difference and weighting estimators in a longitudinal survey to address the purposive placement of participating communities and estimate the effect of the availability of the program at the community level on nutritional outcomes. The authors find that the program helped 0-5 year old children in the participating communities to bridge the gap in weight for age z-scores and the incidence of underweight. The program also had significant effects in protecting long-term nutritional outcomes (height for age z-scores and incidence of stunting) against an underlying negative trend in the absence of the program. Importantly, the effect of the program exhibits substantial heterogeneity: gains in nutritional outcomes are larger for more educated mothers and for villages with better infrastructure. The program enables the analysis to isolate responsiveness to information provision and disentangle the effect of knowledge in the education effect on nutritional outcomes. The results are suggestive of important complementarities among child care, maternal education, and community infrastructure.
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