The Human Capital and Productivity Benefits of Early Childhood Nutritional Interventions

Authors: Arindam Nandi, Jere Behrman, Sonia Bhalotra, Anil Deolalikar, Ramanan Laxminarayan


While child mortality rates have fallen dramatically in recent decades, millions of children in developing countries still fail to reach their developmental potential because of inadequate health, nutritional, and other investments in early life. In this chapter, we discuss the potential health and economic benefits of improving early childhood nutrition in the developing world. We focus on micronutrient supplementation, breastfeeding, and interventions that affect maternal survival. We also discuss the long term anthropometric, cognitive, and labor productivity benefits of interventions that reduce low birth weight and stunting in children. Then, we explore issues in the estimation of benefit-cost ratios of early-life interventions and present simulations, illustrating sensitivity of estimates to alternative parameterizations. Finally, we discuss the design of public policies based on the growing body of estimates emerging from randomized trials in developing countries.