The Fading Link between Health and Nutrition on Cognitive Ability

Leah Gillion, Princeton University

Through numerous studies, scholars have come to view normal birth weight as an essential component of a child's academic success. However, much of the literature views this positive influence in a time-free space, where health impacts a child's academic performance throughout their lifetime. This approach overlooks varying levels of parental investment in early childhood and the growing saliences of neighborhood and school environments. Using panel data from Fragile Families Child Well Being, I chart the influence of birth weight, parental investment, and school SES overtime on cognitive ability. The results show that while birth weight is a significant factor in determining a child's cognitive ability early in life, by age nine the academic gains from health are minor. This work reveals an interesting interplay among school effects, parental investment, and health and their capacity to influence cognitive ability.

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Presented in Session 80: Child Health