Three essays on gender inequalities, human capital and development in Guatemala

Maria Cecilia Calderon, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation investigates micro relations between certain components of human capital and economic and welfare outcomes in Guatemala, a developing country with high levels of malnutrition and large gender inequalities. Three chapters contribute to the analysis. First, ‘High quality nutrition in childhood, body size and wages in early adulthood: Evidence from Guatemalan workers’ focuses on the mechanisms through which a high quality diet during childhood affects wages in early adulthood. Three main results emerge: (1) the causal effect, i.e. when unobserved heterogeneity is taken into account, of health on wages is positive; (2) such a causal effect is larger than the simple association; and (3) evidence is stronger for this effect for males than for females. In addition, this work estimates a set of unbiased returns to nutrition across the conditional wage distribution. Second, ‘Nutritional supplementation of girls influences the growth of their children: Prospective study in Guatemala’ focuses upon the impact of improved child nutrition for mothers on next-generation growth and development. Three key results emerge: (1) exposure to a nutritional supplement for mothers, but not for fathers, has significant intergenerational associations beyond previously documented associations in their own lives (e.g. chapter one), (2) nutritional supplementation of mothers is associated with substantial increases in their offspring birth weight, height, head circumference, height-for-age z score and weight-for-age z score, (3) maternal supplementation was not associated with other offspring anthropometric indicators that reflect measures of adiposity. Finally, ‘Discrimination, marital bargaining power and intrahousehold allocation in Guatemala: A decomposition’, explores gender differences inside marriage. The major result suggests that household food expenditure shares would increase if there were no differences in the bargaining power of wife and husband. Data on the population analyzed come from a nutritional supplementation trial conducted by the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) between 1969 and 1977, the INCAP Longitudinal Study 1969-77, and subsequent follow-ups in 2002-04 and 2006-07. Based on the results in this study, policy interventions should target: (1) the improvement of the nutritional status of the Guatemalan population, and (2) the promotion of gender equality and female empowerment.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Social structure|Developmental biology|Demography

Recommended Citation

Calderon, Maria Cecilia, "Three essays on gender inequalities, human capital and development in Guatemala" (2009). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3381501.