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The Origins of Early Childhood Anthropometric Persistence

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  • Daniel L. Millimet
  • Rusty Tchernis

Abstract

Rates of childhood obesity have increased dramatically in the last few decades. Non-causal evidence suggests that childhood obesity is highly persistent over the life cycle. However little in known about the origins of this persistence. In this paper we attempt to answer three questions. First, how do anthropometric measures evolve from birth through primary school? Second, what is the causal effect of past anthropometric outcomes on future anthropometric outcomes? In other words, how important is state dependence in the evolution of anthropometric measures during the early part of the life cycle. Third, how important are time-varying and time invariant factors in the dynamics of childhood anthropometric measures? We find that anthropometric measures are highly persistent from infancy through primary school. Moreover, most of this persistence is driven by unobserved, time invariant factors that are determined prior to birth, consistent with the so-called fetal origins hypothesis. As such, policy interventions designed to improve child anthropometric status will only have meaningful, long-run effects if these time invariant factors are altered. Unfortunately, future research is needed to identify such factors, although evidence suggests that maternal nutrition may play an important role.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19554.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19554

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  1. David N. Figlio & Jonathan Guryan & Krzysztof Karbownik & Jeffrey Roth, 2013. "The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Children's Cognitive Development," NBER Working Papers 18846, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John Cawley & Chad Meyerhoefer, 2010. "The Medical Care Costs of Obesity: An Instrumental Variables Approach," NBER Working Papers 16467, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Ham & Daniela Iorio & Michelle Sovinsky, 2012. "Caught in the Bulimic Trap? Persistence and State Dependence of Bulimia Among Young Women," Working Papers 2012-018, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  4. Daniel L. Millimet & Rusty Tchernis, 2013. "Estimation Of Treatment Effects Without An Exclusion Restriction: With An Application To The Analysis Of The School Breakfast Program," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(6), pages 982-1017, 09.
  5. Millimet, Daniel L. & Tchernis, Rusty, 2013. "Anthropometric Mobility During Childhood," IZA Discussion Papers 7453, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Debopam Bhattacharya & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2011. "A nonparametric analysis of black–white differences in intergenerational income mobility in the United States," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(3), pages 335-379, November.
  7. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
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