Weight Gain in the First Two Years of Life Is an Important Predictor of Schooling Outcomes in Pooled Analyses from Five Birth Cohorts from Low- and Middle-Income Countries

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Schooling predicts better reproductive outcomes, better long-term health, and increased lifetime earnings. We used data from 5 cohorts (Brazil, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, and South Africa) to explore the relative importance of birthweight and postnatal weight gain for schooling in pooled analyses (n = 7945) that used appropriate statistical methods [conditional weight (CW) gain measures that are uncorrelated with prior weights] and controlled for confounding. One SD increase in birthweight, ~0.5 kg, was associated with 0.21 y more schooling and 8% decreased risk of grade failure. One SD increase in CW gain between 0 and 2 y, ~0.7 kg, was associated with higher estimates, 0.43 y more schooling, and 12% decreased risk of failure. One SD increase of CW gain between 2 and 4 y, ~0.9 kg, was associated with only 0.07 y more schooling but not with failure. Also, in children born in the lowest tertile of birthweight, 1 SD increase of CW between 0 and 2 y was associated with 0.52 y more schooling compared with 0.30 y in those in the upper tertile. Relationships with age at school entry were inconsistent. In conclusion, weight gain during the first 2 y of life had the strongest associations with schooling followed by birthweight; weight gain between 2 and 4 y had little relationship to schooling. Catch-up growth in smaller babies benefited schooling. Nutrition interventions aimed at women and children under 2 y are among the key strategies for achieving the millennium development goal of universal primary education by 2015.

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