Early life exposure to malaria and cognition in adulthood: evidence from Mexico

J Health Econ. 2012 Sep;31(5):767-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2012.06.003. Epub 2012 Jul 13.


This study examines the impact of early life malaria exposure on cognition in sample of Mexican adults, using the nationwide introduction of malaria eradication efforts to identify causal impacts. The core findings are that birth year exposure to malaria eradication was associated with increases in Raven Progressive Matrices test scores and consumption expenditures, but not schooling. Additionally, cohorts born after eradication both entered and exited school earlier than their pre-eradication counterparts. These effects were only seen for men and explanations for this are assessed. Collectively, these findings suggest that improvements in infant health help explain secular increases in cognitive test scores, that better cognition may link early life health to adulthood earnings, and that human capital investments through childhood and young adulthood respond sensitively to market returns to early life endowment shocks.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Infant
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution