A study on the intergenerational transmission of early life nutritional outcomes measured by stunting in early life


School of Economics



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A strong policy on human capital formation is imperative for countries that are on the brink of the demographic transition, in order to benefit from the demographic dividend and to accelerate economic growth. In this study, I focus on one aspect of human capital: health and nutrition, particularly stunting during the early years of physical and neurological development. I investigate whether or not poor early life nutritional outcomes, measured by stunting in early life, are transmitted from one generation to another. This transmission of stunting may reinforce a cycle of impaired human capital and poverty that persists across generations. Using data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS), I use a sample of 254 women born in between May 1, 1983 and April 30, 1984 who have given birth at least once as of 2005. Stunting status is determined using the internationally accepted WHO Child Growth Standard. Using a probit regression analysis, with robust standard errors adjusted for clustering by mother, I find that a mother who was stunted shortly after her birth has an 18.4% higher probability of giving birth to and / or raising a stunted child at any point during the child’s first 1,000 days since birth than a mother who was not stunted in her infancy. Moreover, I find a mother’s current employment to intensify the risk of raising a stunted child; while being at a more mature age at the date of birth of her child, having at least a high school education, and paying more visits to private care facilities attenuates this risk. Comparative statics also show that paying one visit to a private care facility more than the average and delaying pregnancy by another year (from age 20 to age 21) eliminates the likelihood that a stunted mother gives birth to a stunted child; thus, reinforcing the policy urgency of promoting quality prenatal care and responsible parenthood in order to put an end to the intergenerational transmission of poor early life nutritional outcomes.



Health Policy


Malnutrition in children; Human capital

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