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The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood

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  • Clive R. Belfield
  • Inas Rashad Kelly

Abstract

The choice to breastfeed rather than formula-feed an infant as well as the duration of doing so has been scrutinized in more recent times. Yet, key identification issues remain to be resolved, including the array of possible child development benefits, the optimal intensity of breastfeeding versus formula- feeding, and the possibility of confounding with other inputs that promote child health. This study uses the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey – Birth Cohort to explore the causal effect of breastfeeding on development across the early years of childhood. We examine a range of health, physical, and cognitive outcomes and relate these to a set of breastfeeding and formula-feeding intensities. Adjusting for a very extensive set of potential confounding factors that also promote child development, our empirical method uses simultaneous equations models and propensity score measures to understand the link between breastfeeding and child outcomes. Our results indicate that breastfeeding and not formula-feeding at birth are associated with increased probabilities of being in excellent health at 9 months. Furthermore, they are protective against obesity and improve cognitive outcomes at 24 months and 54 months. Breastfeeding for 6 months or more increases motor scores at 9 months.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16496.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Publication status: published as Clive R. Belfield & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2012. "The Benefits of Breast Feeding across the Early Years of Childhood," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(3), pages 251 - 277.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16496

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  1. Arthur Lewbel, 2003. "Using Heteroskedasticity to Identify and Estimate Mismeasured and Endogenous Regressor Models," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 587, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 15 Dec 2010.
  2. Ted Joyce & Andrew Racine & Cristina Yunzal-Butler, 2008. "Reassessing the WIC effect: Evidence from the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 277-303.
  3. Daniel I. Rees & Joseph J. Sabia, 2009. "The Effect of Breast Feeding on Educational Attainment: Evidence from Sibling Data," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 43-72.
  4. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Phillip B. Levine, 2002. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Working Paper Series WP-02-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  5. Herbst, Chris M. & Tekin, Erdal, 2009. "Child Care Subsidies and Childhood Obesity," IZA Discussion Papers 4255, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Sascha O. Becker & Andrea Ichino, 2002. "Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(4), pages 358-377, November.
  7. Haines, Michael R. & Kintner, Hallie J., 2008. "Can breast feeding help you in later life? Evidence from German military heights in the early 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 420-430, December.
  8. Chris M. Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2010. "The Impact of Child Care Subsidies on Child Well-Being: Evidence from Geographic Variation in the Distance to Social Service Agencies," Working Papers id:2739, eSocialSciences.
  9. Robert Pollak, 2003. "Gary Becker's Contributions to Family and Household Economics," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 111-141, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Emla Fitzsimons & Marcos Vera-Hernández, 2014. "Food for Thought? Breastfeeding and Child Development," DoQSS Working Papers 14-04, Department of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London.
  2. George Wehby, 2014. "Breastfeeding and Child Disability: A Comparison of Siblings from the United States," NBER Working Papers 19940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2012. "It Pays to Be Happy (If You are a Man): Subjective Wellbeing and the Gender Wage Gap in Urban China," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 51-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  4. Emla Fitzsimons & Marcos Vera-Hernandez, 2013. "Food for Thought? Breastfeeding and Child Development," IFS Working Papers W13/31, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Del Bono, Emilia & Rabe, Birgitta, 2012. "Breastfeeding and child cognitive outcomes: evidence from a hospital-based breastfeeding support policy," ISER Working Paper Series 2012-29, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  6. Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2012. "Are More Senior Academics Really More Research Productive than Junior Academics? Evidence from Australian Law Schools," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 47-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  7. Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2012. "Returns to Schooling in Urban China: New Evidence Using Heteroskedasticity Restrictions to Obtain Identification Without Exclusion Restrictions," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 33-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  8. Borra, Cristina & Iacovou, Maria & Sevilla, Almudena, 2012. "The effect of breastfeeding on children's cognitive and noncognitive development," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 496-515.

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