Windows of Opportunity? Participation in U.S. Childhood Nutritional Interventions, Cognition and Attainment

Margot Jackson, Brown University

Using longitudinal data, I will examine whether the timing of childhood health intervention is of long-term importance for cognition and educational attainment. Specifically, I consider two U.S. nutritional programs: WIC and the National School Lunch Program. Though early-life health strongly predicts mortality and socioeconomic attainment, research in this area is complicated by central tenets of life course theory and human developmentā€”that developmental pathways are sensitive to not only the quality, but also the timing, duration and variability of environments. Nutritional-based public policies provide an excellent case study for this examination, given high levels of food-insecurity among U.S. youth, as well as strong links among nutrition, cognitive development and attainment. I ask: 1) Are nutrition interventions most effective when participation occurs very early in life?; and 2) Does the duration of intervention matter, whereby children benefiting from early and late intervention experience larger gains than those receiving short-term intervention, or none?

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Presented in Session 96: Policy and Child Outcomes