Volume 27 - Article 23 | Pages 681–704

Whose education affects a child’s nutritional status? From parents' to household's education

By Francesco Burchi

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Date received:23 Sep 2011
Date published:16 Nov 2012
Word count:5345
Keywords:Africa, anthropometric indicators, child nutrition, education, externalities, regression, seemingly unrelated regression


Background: The paper engages in the ongoing debate regarding the determinants of child nutrition in developing countries and stresses the potential contribution of the education of household members other than the child’s parents.

Objective: The aim of the paper is threefold: (1) to verify whether there is evidence of the key role of parents’ education for children’s nutrition; (2) to explore the possible presence of the externalities generated by the literacy of household members different from the child’s parents; (3) to test whether there is difference in the influence of these variables on the two indicators of child nutrition, child height-for-age and weight-for-age.

Methods: The determinants of child nutrition were analyzed by estimating a series of econometric models through OLS regressions applied on data from the 2003 DHS survey in Mozambique. By means of seemingly unrelated regression together with formal testing we compared the impact of the covariates on the two outcomes.

Results: In line with previous studies, we find that one year of mother’s education increases their children’s height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores by nearly 0.025 and 0.015. The presence of another literate household member has a significant, though limited, effect on child height while it has no influence on child weight. Lastly, there is no statistically significant difference in the effect of parents’ education on the two indicators while our measure of proximate literacy has a significantly larger impact on child height.

Conclusions: These findings should orient policy-makers toward income-augmenting and education-enhancing policies: the importance of non-parents’ literacy opens a further space for investment in education.

Author's Affiliation

Francesco Burchi - Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Germany [Email]

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