Policy Research Note No.5: The Economic Costs of Stunting and How to Reduce Them

March 30, 2017

Ami Vitale / World Bank

Investments in very young children – limiting exposure to disease, ensuring adequate nutrients, and stimulating the young child – yield returns across the lifecycle. Stunting – excessively low height-for-age, caused by extreme nutrient inadequacy and repeated bouts of disease – results in impaired brain development, lower cognitive and socioemotional skills, lower levels of educational attainment, and shortness and illness in adulthood. All are associated with lower incomes over the lifecycle.

This policy research note draws on a large literature to address two questions and quantitative exercises:

  • What are the country-specific income per capita losses that countries incur today from having workers who were stunted in childhood?
  • What are country-specific estimate of the net present value of benefits and costs and the internal rate of return of a gradual rollout out of a package of 10 nutrition specific interventions for 34 high burden countries? 

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Emanuela Galasso

Senior Economist