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Maternal education and the multidimensionality of child health outcomes in India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2019

Kriti Vikram*
Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Reeve Vanneman
Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


Maternal education plays a central role in children’s health, but there has been little research comparing the role of maternal education across health outcomes. It is important to distinguish child health outcomes from medical care outcomes. Health outcomes such as short-term morbidity and stunting are multifactorial in origin and determined by a range of factors not necessarily under a mother’s control. Mother’s education, given the necessary structural factors such as medical centres, is likely to lead to increased access to, and uptake of, medical services. Using data from the 2004–05 India Human Development Survey, eight separate logistic regressions were carried out on 11,026 women of reproductive age and their last-born child under five years of age. The results showed that maternal education had the strongest association with medical care, immunization (except polio) and iron supplementation for pregnant mothers, moderate association with underweight and weak association with short-term diseases and stunting. In addition, the study investigated whether maternal education impacts child health and medical care outcomes through the intervening roles of empowerment and human, social and cultural capital. These intervening linkages were found to be missing for short-term diseases and stunting, bolstering the argument that the influence of maternal education is limited for these outcomes.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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