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Causal Effect of Parental Schooling on Early Childhood Undernutrition: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Zimbabwe
Authors: Jan-Walter De Neve, and S V Subramanian
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, 187(1): 82–93; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwx195
Topic(s): Child health
Country: Africa
Published: JUN 2017
Abstract: An estimated 3.1 million children die each year because of undernutrition. Although cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have found a protective association between greater parental education and undernutrition in their children, no randomized trial has identified a causal effect, to our knowledge. Using the 1980 education reform in Zimbabwe as a natural experiment, we estimated the causal effect of additional parental schooling on the probability of anthropometric failure in their children under 5 years of age (ages 3 through 59 months). Analyzing data on 8,243 children from the 1988, 1999, 2005–2006, and 2010–2011 Demographic and Health Surveys, we found no effect of parental schooling on early childhood undernutrition at the national level in Zimbabwe. Among households in the urban and high-wealth-index subsamples, each additional year of maternal schooling led to absolute reductions in the probability of a child’s being wasted of 5.2 percentage points (95% confidence interval (CI): -9.3, -1.2) and 3.6 percentage points (95% CI: -6.9, -0.4), respectively. In the subsample of children between the ages of 3 and 23 months, each additional year of paternal schooling increased the probability of a child’s being stunted by 9.6 percentage points (95% CI: 1.4, 17.9). Secondary schooling alone may not be enough to improve early childhood nutrition in low-resource settings. Keywords: education, natural experiment, undernutrition, Zimbabwe