The Role of Parental Schooling vs. Cognitive Ability on Child Health

Luis Rubalcava, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)
Graciela M. Teruel, Universidad Iberoamericana

The literature on child health suggests that mothers play a central role in child rearing activities. While some efforts have been made to separate the differential mechanisms through which mother's education impacts child health outcomes, controversy still exists on how much estimated returns to schooling reflect pure knowledge and how much they reflect parental background and ability characteristics in processing new information when procuring their children health. This paper investigates the separate effect of parental schooling vs. cognitive ability on child health. We make use of the information of parental cognitive ability through application of tests that require no literacy. Our results show that mother's cognitive ability to process new information is an important factor in improving her children health as measured by child's weight-for-age and height-for-age. The returns of mother's cognitive ability on child health are robust to usual human capital controls, such as age, education and parental height.

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Presented in Session 102: Household Structure and Child Wellbeing in Developing Countries