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Still Unequal at Birth: Birth Weight, Socioeconomic Status and Outcomes at Age 9

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  • McGovern, Mark E.

Abstract

The prevalence of low birth weight is an important aspect of public health which has been linked to increased risk of infant death, increased cost of care, and a range of later life outcomes. Using data from a new Irish cohort study, I document the relationship between birth weight and socioeconomic status. The association of maternal education with birth weight does not appear to be due to the timing of birth or complications during pregnancy, even controlling for a wide range of background characteristics. However, results do suggest intergenerational persistence in the transmission of poor early life conditions. Birth weight predicts a number of outcomes at age 9, including test scores, hospital stays and health. An advantage of the data is that I am able to control for a number of typically unmeasured variables. I determine whether parental investments (as measured by the quality of interaction with the child, parenting style, or school quality) mediate the association between birth weight and later indicators. For test scores, there is evidence of non-linearity, and boys are more adversely affected than girls. I also consider whether there are heterogeneous effects by ability using quantile regression. These results are consistent with a literature which finds that there is a causal relationship between early life conditions and later outcomes.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University OpenScholar in its series Working Paper with number 143356.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:qsh:wpaper:143356

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  1. 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.
  2. Janet Currie, 2008. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," NBER Working Papers 13987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Patricio Solís & Starling G. Pullum & W. Frisbie, 2000. "Demographic models of birth outcomes and infant mortality: An alternative measurement approach," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 489-498, November.
  4. Arnaud Chevalier & Vincent O'Sullivan, 2007. "Mother's education and birth weight," Working Papers 200725, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
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  6. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
  7. 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.
  8. Grossman, Michael & Joyce, Theodore J, 1990. "Unobservables, Pregnancy Resolutions, and Birth Weight Production Functions in New York City," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 983-1007, October.
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  12. Costa, Dora L., 1998. "Unequal at Birth: A Long-Term Comparison of Income and Birth Weight," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(04), pages 987-1009, December.
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  14. Bharadwaj, Prashant & Eberhard, Juan & Neilson, Christopher, 2010. "Do Initial Endowments Matter Only Initially? The Persistent Effect of Birth Weight on School Achievement," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt4536p0hd, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  15. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jason Boardman & Daniel Powers & Yolanda Padilla & Robert Hummer, 2002. "Low birth weight, social factors, and developmental outcomes among children in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 353-368, May.
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  27. repec:cdl:ucsdec:1562347 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. Lin, Ming-Jen & Liu, Jin-Tan, 2009. "Do lower birth weight babies have lower grades? Twin fixed effect and instrumental variable method evidence from Taiwan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 1780-1787, May.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Childhood's legacy
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-11-06 14:01:55
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Cited by:
  1. Sarah Gibney & Mark E. McGovern & Erika Sabbath, 2013. "Social Relationships in Later Life: The Role of Childhood Circumstances," Working Papers 201319, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  2. Mark E. McGovern, 2012. "Don't stress: early life conditions, hypertension and selection into associated risk factors," Working Papers 201223, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  3. Doris, Aedín & O’Neill, Donal & Sweetman, Olive, 2013. "Gender, single-sex schooling and maths achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 104-119.
  4. Layte, Richard & Nolan, Anne, 2013. "Socioeconomic Inequalities in Child Health in Ireland," Papers WP453, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

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