Growth in Young Filipino Children Predicts Schooling Trajectories through High School1,2

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Abstract

Several studies link childhood malnutrition to adverse schooling outcomes, including delayed or diminished enrollment and increased grade repetition. However, the effects of nutrition on schooling trajectories are obscured by the cross-sectional nature of most previous research and the complex array of other phenomena that affect schooling outcomes. We explored the association between height-for-age Z-score (HAZ) at 2 y and schooling trajectory among 2198 children from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey. Parity, parental education, maternal height, household assets, environmental cleanliness, presence of electricity, and household income were identified as potential confounders. Crude and adjusted logistic and multinomial regressions of schooling outcomes (entrance age, grade repetition, and grades completed) were conducted. Entrance age and IQ were evaluated as potential mediators between HAZ and schooling outcomes. After adjustment for confounders, greater height for age protected against late enrollment among both boys and girls and predicted early enrollment among boys. Taller children were less likely to repeat grades [girls OR = 0.78 (0.67, 0.89); boys OR = 0.86 (0.74, 0.99)] and less likely to drop out during grade school rather than graduate from high school [girls OR = 0.74 (0.56, 0.98; boys OR = 0.66 (0.51, 0.84)]. Models predicting the changes in school outcomes associated with a change in overall height from -2 to 0 SD of HAZ were simulated. Absolute probability of late enrollment dropped substantially, from 6% for both boys and girls to 2% for boys and 1% for girls. Absolute grade repetition dropped —7% for boys and 9% for girls. Improving early childhood nutrition may have long-lasting educational benefits, increasing the likelihood of high school completion in developing countries. J. Nutr. 134: 1439-1446, 2004.

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