Adult consequences of growth failure in early childhood uri icon


  • Background: Growth failure is associated with adverse consequences, but studies need to control adequately for confounding.
  • Conclusion: Growth failure in early life has profound adverse consequences over the life course on human, social, and economic capital.
  • Design: In 2002-2004, we collected data from 1338 Guatemalan adults (aged 25-42 y) who were studied as children in 1969-1977. We used instrumental variable regression to correct for estimation bias and adjusted for potentially confounding factors.
  • Objective: We related height-for-age z scores (HAZs) and stunting at age 24 mo to adult human capital, marriage, fertility, health, and economic outcomes.
  • Results: A 1-SD increase in HAZ was associated with more schooling (0.78 grades) and higher test scores for reading and nonverbal cognitive skills (0.28 and 0.25 SDs, respectively), characteristics of marriage partners (1.39 y older, 1.02 grade more schooling, and 1.01 cm taller) and, for women, a higher age at first birth (0.77 y) and fewer number of pregnancies and children (0.63 and 0.43, respectively). A 1-SD increase in HAZ was associated with increased household per capita expenditure (21%) and a lower probability of living in poverty (10 percentage points). Conversely, being stunted at 2 y was associated with less schooling, a lower test performance, a lower household per capita expenditure, and an increased probability of living in poverty. For women, stunting was associated with a lower age at first birth and higher number of pregnancies and children. There was little relation between either HAZ or stunting and adult health.

publication date

  • 2013
  • 2013
  • 2013