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Height and Cognitive Achievement among Indian Children

Research, Sanitation1 min read

Author: Dean Spears

Published in: Economics & Human Biology

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Taller children perform better on average on tests of cognitive achievement, in part because of differences in early-life health and net nutrition. Recent research documenting this height–achievement slope has primarily focused on rich countries. Using the India Human Development Survey, a representative sample of 40,000 households which matches anthropometric data to learning tests, this paper documents a height–achievement slope among Indian children.

The height–achievement slope in India is more than twice as steep as in the U.S. An earlier survey interviewed some IHDS children’s households eleven years before. Including matched early-life control variables reduces the apparent effect of height, but does not eliminate it; water, sanitation, and hygiene may be particularly important for children’s outcomes. Being one standard deviation taller is associated with being 5 percentage points more likely to be able to write, a slope that falls only to 3.4 percentage points controlling for a long list of contemporary and early-life conditions.

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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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