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Economic Development Seminar

Early Life Adversity, Biological Adaptation, and Human Capital

Atheendar Venkataramani, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania

Thursday, March 08, 2018
4:00 am to 5:30 am
3240 Weill

Early life shocks result in physiological changes that allow infants and children to adapt to surrounding environments. We examine the implications of one form of biological adaptation - immune system learning - for human capital formation. Using two case studies, where interventions to reduce the risk of an infectious disease – malaria – were only temporarily successful, we show that reduced early life exposure to infectious diseases may substantially reduce cognitive development and educational attainment if children are later re-exposed. Our findings highlight the importance of capturing the critical tradeoffs generated by biological adaptation to early adversity in human capital models.

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International Policy Center (IPC)