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Cognitive skills gaps in India: can (late) nutrition ameliorate them?

Using unique data from very young children in India, we estimate a value-added model of cognition. We use exposure to the Mid Day Meal Scheme interacted with a non-linearity in how birth year exogenously affects the probability of enrollment in public schools as an instrumental variable for nutrition. We find that a 1-standard-deviation (SD) increase in height-for-age at age 5 leads to cognitive test scores 11 to 14 percent of an SD higher at age 8. This result sup- ports the recent literature on catch-up growth, particularly as effects are much larger for children who suffered from drought.

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