Delayed Primary School Enrollment and Child Malnutrition in Ghana
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Explores the effect of malnutrition on school enrollment and extent of schooling.
In many developing countries, less than half of all primary school students have enrolled by age six, and many do not enroll until age eight or nine. This paper uses data from the Ghana Living Standards Survey to explore this phenomenon.
The authors develop a number of explanations for delayed primary school enrollment in Ghana, but their main focus is on nutrition. They find that infant and child malnutrition has a major impact on the age at which children enroll in school. They argue that chronically malnourished children tend to be kept out of school by their parents because they perform poorly and the benefit to them of schooling is therefore low.
Chronic malnutrition, which is extensive in Ghana, has been shown to stunt growth, retard mental development, and reduce motivation and energy levels. Because growth can eventually compensate for the initial retardation caused by malnutrition, the authors suggest that there may be an "optimal age" of primary school enrollment for malnourished children that is higher than that for other children.
The authors also explore the effects of malnutrition on the number of years of schooling completed. By taking enrollment age into account when analyzing the statistics on dropouts, the authors are able to remedy a major shortcoming of previous studies. They thus develop a method of identifying the further negative effects of malnutrition even when delayed enrollment is common.
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