Panel Paper: The Cognitive Link Between In Utero Nutrition and Schooling: Experimental Evidence From Tanzania

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 1:35 PM
Hanover A (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Plamen Nikolov, Harvard University

Because of the high returns of schooling in developing countries, policy-makers have placed considerable attention to increasing school access. However, an important mechanism through which brain development in utero can affect demand for education exists. Cognitive development in utero, due to maternal deficiency in folic acid, can biologically constrain children's demand for education. Using a more scientifically credible research designed to detect causal effects than has been used in previous research, we examine how reductions in micronutrient deficiency in utero impact subsequent child schooling attainment in Tanzania. We also examine to what extent parents allocate resources so as to compensate for or to reinforce inequalities across children in cognitive endowments. Capturing the behavioral response to the biological intervention allows us to disentangle the biological effect from the household response to the original randomized intervention. To execute this strategy, we follow up on a randomized control trial with micronutrient supplements offered to HIV-negative pregnant women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania between 2001-2003. While data collection is still ongoing, preliminary results show some cognitive improvements among children born to mothers in the micronutrient supplementation group from the original RCT.