Child Nutrition, Child Health, and School Enrollment: A Longitudinal Analysis
Better health and nutrition are thought to improve children's performance in school, and therefore their productivity after school. Most literature ignores the fact that child health and schooling reflect behavioral choices, so the estimated impact of health and nutrition on a child's schooling reflects biases in the studies. Using an explicit dynamic model for preferred estimates, the authors use longitudinal data to investigate how children's health and nutrition affect school enrollment in rural Pakistan. They use price shocks when children were of preschool age to control for behavior determining the measure of children's health and nutrition stock. The authors find that children's health and nutrition is three times more important for enrollment than is suggested by"naive estimates"that assume that children's health and nutrition is predetermined rather that determined by household choices. Not only does improved nutrition increase enrollments, it does so more for girls, thus closing a portion of the gender gap. These results strongly reinforce the importance of using estimation methods that are consistent with the economic theory of households to explore the impact of some choice variables on others, using socioeconomic behavioral data. Private behaviors and public policies that affect the health and nutrition of children have much greater effect on school enrollment and on eventual productivity than suggested by early literature methods.