Low levels of maternal education and the proximate determinants of childhood mortality: a little learning is not a dangerous thing

Soc Sci Med. 2005 May;60(9):2011-23. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.08.057. Epub 2004 Dec 10.


This paper examines the impact of 'low' levels of maternal education on the proximate determinants of child mortality using data from the 1992/93 Indian National Family Health Survey. Twenty-two outcomes are investigated, representing child mortality and morbidity, illness management, service utilization and health behaviours. Maternal education is a significant correlate of each of the outcomes, and even low levels of education increase child survival prospects and health-related behaviours, except for neonatal mortality and the effective management of diarrhoea. We speculate on some of the possible mechanisms behind such impressive findings and suggest that rather than female autonomy, it may be the 'hidden curriculum' values of discipline and obedience of authority that account for them.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers*
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control