Early childhood nutrition and academic achievement: a longitudinal analysis

Many policymakers propose early childhood nutrition programs as a way to increase students’ academic achievement. This paper investigates the nutrition–learning nexus using a unique longitudinal data set that follows a large sample of Filipino children from birth until the end of their primary education. We find that better nourished children perform significantly better in school, partly because they enter school earlier and thus have more time to learn but mostly because of greater learning productivity per year of schooling. Our cost–benefit analysis suggests that a dollar invested in an early childhood nutrition program in a developing country could potentially return at least three dollars worth of gains in academic achievement, and perhaps much more.

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