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The role of children’s early development in lifelong health and human capital

The importance of early childhood development (ECD) for both individual and societal economic and humanitarian growth is increasingly appreciated and efforts by governments and multilateral agencies to improve human development are taking shape, including in low- and middle-income countries. ECD is key to realizing many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, Gender Equality, and Reduced Inequality.
Exposures and experiences from conception to between 2-3 years of life have been shown, in long-term follow-up studies including in South Africa, to have clear consequences for child, adolescent, and adult human capital and health. However, the mechanisms for these lifelong, including inter-generational, effects are not yet clear. Birth to Thirty (Bt30), the Johannesburg-Soweto birth cohort study, that has followed more than 3 000 young people to 30 years of age, is one of the few studies with data to examine three candidate pathways, the interactions between them, and their associated social and material conditions. The pathways I propose to examine, conceptually and empirically, are physical health and development, intellectual resources and education, and personality factors related to sociability and determination.


Fellows involved in this project

South Africa

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Desmond, Chris, Kathryn Watt, Sara Naicker, Jere Behrman and Linda Richter. 2023. Girls’ schooling is important but insufficient to promote equality for boys and girls in childhood and across the life course. Development Policy Review.

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7 September 2023

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