India has some of the highest rates of undernutrition in the world. Up to 44 percent of Indian children under the age of five years—around 50 million children—are underweight.
Nutrition during the first 2-3 years of life is known to significantly improve health outcomes later in life. However, its relationship with future educational outcomes has been examined only by a handful of small studies in Guatemala, Tanzania, Brazil, and Indonesia. Our study helped fill some of this knowledge gap—and with good news. The nutritional supplement was associated with a rise in school enrollment rate by 7.8%, and a 0.84 year increase in years of schooling.
ICDS is one of the largest nutrition programs in the world, but largely lacks evidence on its outcomes for children as they grow into adolescents and adults. Our findings are therefore important for informing the Indian government, and nutrition programs around the world, on the possible long-term outcomes of such programs.