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Early life mortality and height in Indian states

Research, Maternal Health1 min read

Author: Diane Coffey

Published in: Economics & Human Biology

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Height is a marker for health, cognitive ability and economic productivity. Recent research on the determinants of height suggests that postneonatal mortality predicts height because it is a measure of the early life disease environment to which a cohort is exposed.

This article advances the literature on the determinants of height by examining the role of early life mortality, including neonatal mortality, in India, a large developing country with a very short population. It uses state level variation in neonatal mortality, postneonatal mortality, and pre-adult mortality to predict the heights of adults born between 1970 and 1983, and neonatal and postneonatal mortality to predict the heights of children born between 1995 and 2005.

In contrast to what is found in the literature on developed countries, I find that state level variation in neonatal mortality is a strong predictor of adult and child heights. This may be due to state level variation in, and overall poor levels of, pre-natal nutrition in India.


r.i.c.e. is a nonprofit research organization, dedicated to understanding the lives of poor people, especially young children, in India, and to promoting their well-being.

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