DP9032 | Undernutrition and Psychosocial Competencies: Evidence from Four Countries

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Both cognitive and non-cognitive skills matter to understand a child's opportunities and outcomes in adulthood. However, it is unclear how non-cognitive skills are acquired and what the role played by household investments is in this process. Motivated by suggestions from the medical literature and by the recent literature on human skill formation, this paper uses longitudinal data from children growing up in developing countries to study the role of early nutritional history in shaping this type of skills. We link height-for-age at the age of 7 to 8 to a set of psychosocial competencies measured at the age of 11 to 12 that are known to be correlated with earnings during adulthood: self-efficacy, self-esteem and aspirations. We find that height-for-age predicts the three observed psychosocial measures. Auxiliary estimations suggest that the relationship found is unlikely to be mediated by the effect that undernutrition can have on academic performance.