It is estimated that, in developing countries, around 26 percent of children under 5 years of age are growth retarded by international standards (UNICEF 2004). Linear growth retardation is considered evidence of inadequate nutrition over a long period of time (chronic malnutrition). Several studies show that malnutrition during the first years of life can have long-lasting cognitive implications (Grantham-McGregor et al. 2007 provides an up-to-date review of these studies). Compared to well-nourished children, children that were malnourished early in life are more likely to start school late, to have lower schooling attainment and to score poorly in cognitive tests (Glewwe and Jacoby 1995, Alderman et al. 2006, Glewwe et al. 2001, Pollit et al. 1993, Walker et al. 2000, among others). The key insight from this evidence is that a child's learning productivity at school seems to be partially determined by parental investments in health and nutrition during infancy. It is unknown whether these effects are reversible. If they are not, early malnutrition could become a bottleneck for subsequent investments in education.
This study provides new evidence of the nutrition-learning nexus, with a specific focus on preschool cognitive achievement. Results are based on multivariate regression analysis, using longitudinal data drawn from the Young Lives Survey, an international project that is tracking the livelihoods of children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. Section 2 summaries the analysis carried out and the key findings. Section 3 describes the sample and the empirical methodology applied. Section 4 reports key results from the statistical analysis. Full results are reported in the Appendix.
Alan Sanchez (2010) 'Early Nutrition and Late Cognitive Achievement in Developing Countries', background paper prepared for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010: Reaching the Marginalised, Paris: UNESCO.