The causal effect of childhood measles vaccination on educational attainment: A mother fixed-effects study in rural South Africa

Anekwe, T.D., Newell, M.-L., Tanser, F , Pillay, D. and Bärnighausen, T. (2015) The causal effect of childhood measles vaccination on educational attainment: A mother fixed-effects study in rural South Africa. Vaccine, 33 (38). pp. 5020-5026. ISSN 0264-410X

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Because measles vaccination prevents acute measles disease and morbidities secondary to measles, such as undernutrition, blindness, and brain damage, the vaccination may also lead to higher educational attainment. However, there has been little evidence to support this hypothesis at the population level. In this study, we estimate the causal effect of childhood measles vaccination on educational attainment among children born between 1995 and 2000 in South Africa.

Methods and findings
We use longitudinal data on measles vaccination status and school grade attainment among 4783 children. The data were collected by the Wellcome Trust Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS), which is one of Africa's largest health and demographic surveillance systems. ACDIS is located in a poor, predominantly rural, Zulu-speaking community in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Using mother fixed-effects regression, we compare the school grade attainment of siblings who are discordant in their measles vaccination status but share the same mother and household. This fixed-effects approach controls for confounding due to both observed and unobserved factors that do not vary between siblings, including sibling-invariant mother and household characteristics such as attitudes toward risk, conscientiousness, and aspirations for children. We further control for a range of potential confounders that vary between siblings, such as sex of the child, year of birth, mother's age at child's birth, and birth order. We find that measles vaccination on average increases school grade attainment by 0.188 grades (95% confidence interval, 0.0424–0.334; p = 0.011).

Measles vaccination increased educational attainment in this poor, largely rural community in South Africa. For every five to seven children vaccinated against measles, one additional school grade was gained. The presence of a measles vaccination effect in this community is plausible because (i) measles vaccination prevents measles complications including blindness, brain damage, and undernutrition; (ii) a large number of number of children were at risk of contracting measles because of the comparatively low measles vaccination coverage; and (iii) significant measles transmission occurred in the community where this study took place during the study observation period. Our results demonstrate for the first time that measles vaccination affects human development not only through its health effects but also through its effects on education.

Additional Information:cited By 11
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Institute of Health
ID Code:37505
Deposited On:09 Oct 2019 14:23

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