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Separated at Girth: US Twin Estimates of the Effects of Birth Weight

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  • Heather Royer

Abstract

The fetal origins hypothesis asserts that nutrient deprivation in utero can raise chronic disease risk. Within economics, this hypothesis has gained acceptance as a leading explanation for the correlations between birth weight, a proxy for fetal nutrient intake, and adult outcomes. Exploiting birth-weight differences between twins using (a) a newlycreated dataset of twins from 1960-1982 California birth records and (b) the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort, I find birth weight is related to educational attainment, later pregnancy complications, and the birth weight of the next generation. These effects are generally small. However, the protective effects of birth weight vary across the birth-weight distribution. (JEL: I12, I21, J13)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 1 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 49-85

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:49-85

Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.1.1.49
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  1. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Zhang, Junsen, 2006. "Do Population Control Policies Induce More Human Capital Investment? Twins, Birthweight, and China's 'One Child' Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 2082, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. B. Douglas Bernheim & Sergei Severinov, 2003. "Bequests as Signals: An Explanation for the Equal Division Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 733-764, August.
  3. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
  4. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile, 2003. "Socioeconomic Status and Child Health: Why Is the Relationship Stronger for Older Children?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1813-1823, December.
  5. Janet Currie & Rosemary Hyson, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," NBER Working Papers 6999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  7. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1995. "Sisters, Siblings, and Mothers: The Effect of Teen-Age Childbearing on Birth Outcomes in a Dynamic Family Context," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(2), pages 303-26, March.
  8. Hausman, J. A. & Abrevaya, Jason & Scott-Morton, F. M., 1998. "Misclassification of the dependent variable in a discrete-response setting," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 239-269, September.
  9. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
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