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Biology as Destiny? Short and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight

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  • Janet Currie
  • Enrico Moretti

Abstract

Little is known about the mechanisms underlying the transfer of economic status between generations. This paper addresses the question of whether inter-generational correlations in health contribute to the perpetuation of economic status. We examine inter-generational correlations in birth weight, a key indicator of the health of newborns that we link to future educational attainment and earnings using a unique data set based on California births from 1960s to the present. We use names and birth dates to link the records of mothers and children. We also identify mothers who are siblings. We show that there is a strong intergenerational correlation in the birth weight of mothers and children, but that a measure of household income at the time of the mother's birth is also predictive of low birth weight and that there is an interaction between maternal low birth weight and poverty in the production of low birth weight. Together these findings suggest that intergenerational correlations in health could play a role in the intergenerational transmission of income. Parent's income affects child health, and health at birth affects future income.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11567.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Publication status: published as Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "Biology as Destiny? Short- and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 231-264.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11567

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  1. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile, 2003. "Socioeconomic Status and Child Health: Why Is the Relationship Stronger for Older Children?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1813-1823, December.
  2. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
  3. James P. Smith, 2005. "The Impact of SES on Health over the Life-Course," Working Papers, RAND Corporation Publications Department 318, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  4. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing. 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  5. Currie, Janet & Madrian, Brigitte C., 1999. "Health, health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 50, pages 3309-3416 Elsevier.
  6. Grossman, Michael, 2000. "The human capital model," Handbook of Health Economics, Elsevier, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 347-408 Elsevier.
  7. Eriksson, Tor & Bratsberg, Bernt & Raaum, Oddbjørn, 2005. "Earnings persistence across generations: Transmission through health?," Memorandum, Oslo University, Department of Economics 35/2005, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  8. Robert W. Fogel, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 4638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
  10. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2004. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 10552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst, 2003. "The Correlation of Wealth across Generations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1155-1182, December.
  12. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
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