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Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings and Longitudinal Data

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  • Janet Currie
  • Enrico Moretti

Abstract

We estimate the effect of maternal education on birth outcomes using data from the Vital Statistics Natality files for 1970 to 1999. We also assess the importance of four potential channels through which maternal education may improve birth outcomes: use of prenatal care, smoking behavior, marriage, and fertility. In an effort to account for unobserved characteristics of women that could induce spurious correlation, we pursue two distinct empirical strategies. First, we construct panel data by linking women in different years of the Vital Statistics records and examine the effects of changes in education on changes in birth outcomes. Second, we have compiled a new data set on openings of two and four year colleges between 1940 and 1990. We use data about the availability of colleges in the woman's county in her 17th year as an instrument for maternal education Our findings using the two approaches are similar. Higher maternal education improves infant health, as measured by birthweight and gestational age. It also increases the probability that a new mother is married, reduces parity, increases use of prenatal care, and reduces smoking, suggesting that these are important pathways for the ultimate effect on health.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9360.

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Date of creation: Dec 2002
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Publication status: published as Currie, Janet and Enrico Moretti. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings." Quarterly Journal of Economics VCXVIII, 4 (November 2003): 1495-1532.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9360

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Cited by:
  1. Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2003. "The Impact of Length of the School Year on Student Performance and Earnings: Evidence from the German Short School Years," CEPR Discussion Papers 4074, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Kasey Buckles & Joseph Price, 2013. "Selection and the Marriage Premium for Infant Health," Demography, Springer, vol. 50(4), pages 1315-1339, August.
  3. Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2004. "The Impact of the School Year on Student Performance and Earnings: Evidence from the German short school years," CEE Discussion Papers 0034, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  4. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2003. "Does Human Capital Transfer from Parent to Child? The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," NBER Working Papers 10164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Thomas S. Dee, 2003. "Are There Civic Returns to Education?," NBER Working Papers 9588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jorn-Steffen Pischke, 2004. "The impact of the school year on student performance and earnings: evidence from the German short school years," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19474, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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