Both cognitive and non-cognitive skills matter to understand a child's opportunities and outcomes in adulthood. However, it is unclear how non-cognitive skills are produced and what the role played by household investments is in this process. Motivated by suggestions from the medical literature and by the skills formation model proposed by Cunha and Heckman (2007, 2008), in this paper we use longitudinal data from children growing up in developing country contexts to study the role of early nutritional history in shaping these skills. To do this, we link height-for-age at the age of 7 to 8 to a set of psychosocial competencies measured at the age of 11 to 12 that are known to be correlated with earnings during adulthood: self-efficacy, self-esteem and educational aspirations. The estimation procedure is OLS with community fixed effects, controlling for a wide array of factors that can be deemed as determinants of parental investments – including an extended set of household wealth controls. We find that height-for-age predicts the three observed psychosocial measures. Auxiliary estimations suggest that the nutrition effect found is unlikely to be mediated by the effect that under-nutrition can have on cognitive skills.
Keywords: Nutrition; Malnutrition; Cognitive development; Psychosocial skills