Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

The Effect of Early Childhood Malnutrition on Child Labor and Schooling in Rural Ethiopia

Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

The Effect of Early Childhood Malnutrition on Child Labor and Schooling in Rural Ethiopia

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

INTRODUCTION

Unlike the developed economies where short-term fluctuations in household income and living standards are largely associated with the conditions in the labor market and business cycles, temporary changes in livelihoods of rural communities in the least developed economies are often associated with crop and livestock losses caused by changes in weather conditions. One important indicator of the capability of households to absorb the effects of a weather shock is whether the nutritional status of its members, as reflected in anthropometric health measures, substantially deteriorates as a result of the shock. While some evidence shows that adults may lose some body mass as a consequence of weather shocks (e.g. Dercon and Krishnan 2000), the majority of empirical studies in this area show that it is children in their first 3 years of life at the time of the shock who are particularly vulnerable and often sustain long-lasting deficiencies in their physical stature (e.g., Alderman, Hoddinott and Kinsey 2006). This is so because early childhood is the period when children have high nutritional requirements per unit of body mass to support their rapid growth and immature immune system (Martorell et al. 1995; Martorell 1999; Hoddinott and Kinsey 2001). According to these studies the physical stature of the child towards the end of the first three years is a strong predictor of his/her physical stature later in life. And a number of studies show that physical stature, as a cumulative outcome of childhood nutrition experience, is strongly associated with the child's cognitive ability and educational attainment.

Alderman, Hoddinott and Kinsey (2006), for example, used drought and civil war in Zimbabwe as exogenous sources of child malnutrition in three resettlement villages and found that children who were stunted as preschoolers entered school later and completed less schooling on average. Alderman et al. (2001) used price shocks as identifying instruments for preschool malnutrition and found strong relationship between preschool child nutritional status and subsequent school enrollment in rural Pakistan. An earlier study by Behrman and Lavy (1994) also found similar relationships between nutrition, child health and schooling using family and community characteristics as instruments for child nutrition and health in Ghana. Glewwe and Jacoby (1995) used multiple instruments including household wealth proxies, health prices and mother's height and found that early childhood malnutrition resulted in delayed school enrollment in Ghana. Glewwe, Jacoby and King (2001) employed "siblings' difference approach" and height-for-age of the older sibling as instruments for a child's nutritional status to analyze the relationship between preschool malnutrition and subsequent academic achievement. Using data from Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey from Philippines they find that children who were malnourished as preschoolers enter school later and perform poorly on intelligence tests.

The findings in a number of recent studies also confirm the positive association between schooling and better nutrition in early childhood. For example, Khanam, Nghiem, and Rahman (2011) find that malnourished children were less likely to start attending school on time and were more likely to complete smaller number of years of schooling for their age than the well-nourished children in Bangladesh. Thai and Falaris (2014) find that rainfall shortfalls during gestation and third year of the child's life "adversely affect" the child's height and schooling later in life. Khanam (2014) uses mother's height and father's height as instruments for the child's physical stature in Bangladesh and finds that children who were shorter for their age were less likely to be enrolled in school and achieved smaller number of years of schooling for their age. Her study, however, did not explicitly address malnutrition as a source of deficiencies in physical stature. …

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