Maternal Undernutrition in Adolescence and Child Human Capital Formation over the Life-Course: Evidence from an International Cohort Study

Adolescence has been highlighted as a period when environments are critical for the human capital development of women, and thus of their children, but evidence on this from low- and middle-income countries is scarce. We estimate the effect of mother adolescent undernutrition on offspring growth and development from infancy through adolescence using data from Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam and Instrumental Variables (IV) estimation that employs rainfall shocks during mother’s adolescence as instruments for mother’s nutritional status. We find a positive and significant effect of mother adolescent nutritional status on child height-for-age in infancy that persists through to adolescence and evidence that this may manifest mainly through a biological channel. Our results also support a significant impact of rainfall shocks during mother’s early adolescence on mother’s adult height and child growth from infancy to adolescence. We find no significant effect of mother’s adolescent nutritional status and rainfall shocks during mother’s adolescence on child achievement tests scores, however.

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