Working Papers

Early Nutrition and Cognition in Peru

AUTHOR(s): Outes-Leon, Ingo , Porter, Catherine , Sanchez, Alan
PUBLISHED: August 2011
RELATED TOPICS: Poverty Reduction and Labor


This paper examines the causal link between early childhood nutrition and cognition, applying instrumental variables to sibling-differences for a sample of pre-school aged Peruvian children. Child-specific shocks in the form of food price changes and household shocks during a child’s critical developmental period are used as instruments. The analysis shows significant, positive returns to early childhood nutritional investments. An increase in the Height-for-Age z-score of one standard deviation translates into increases in the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) score of 17-21% of a standard deviation. The period of analysis includes the recent global food price crisis that also affected Peru between 2006 and 2008. Thus, this quantifies the nutritional and subsequent cognitive costs of food prices on the sample which could be magnified in later years.

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