Mothers’ Community Participation and Child Health

  • Jenna Nobles
  • Elizabeth Frankenberg
Keywords: social capital, child health, nutrition, volunteer participation, Indonesia


We use rich data to assess the relationship between mothers’ access to social capital via participation in community activities and their children’s health in Indonesia. We exploit the advantages of longitudinal data and community fixed effects to mitigate some of the concerns about spuriousness and reverse causality that predominate in this literature. We find that children from families with relatively low levels of human and financial capital fare better with respect to health status when their mothers are more active participants in community organizations. In fact, the association between maternal participation and child health is strong, positive, and statistically significant only for children from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds, as measured by their mother’s educational level and economic resources within the household. The results suggest that in resource-constrained settings, community involvement may benefit disadvantaged families, possibly by providing resources and information that would otherwise be inaccessible.


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