March 2022

IZA DP No. 15124: Birth Weight and Cognitive Development during Childhood: Evidence from India

Health at birth is an important indicator of human capital development over the life course. This paper uses longitudinal data from the Young Lives survey and employs instrumental variable regression models to estimate the effect of birth weight on cognitive development during childhood in India. We find that a 10 percent increase in birth weight increases cognitive test scores by 8.1 percent or 0.11 standard deviations at ages 5-8 years. Low birth weight infants experienced a lower test score compared with normal birth weight infants. The positive effect of birth weight on a cognitive test score is larger for girls, children from rural households, and those with less-educated mothers. Our findings suggest that health policies designed to improve birth weight could improve human capital in resource-poor settings.