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Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis

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  • Douglas Almond
  • Janet Currie

Abstract

In the epidemiological literature, the fetal origins hypothesis associated with David J. Barker posits that chronic, degenerative conditions of adult health, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, may be triggered by circumstances decades earlier, particularly, by in utero nutrition. Economists have expanded on this hypothesis, investigating a broader range of fetal shocks and circumstances and have found a wealth of later-life impacts on outcomes including test scores, educational attainment, and income, along with health. In the process, they have provided some of the most credible observational evidence in support of the hypothesis. The magnitude of the impacts is generally large. Thus, the fetal origins hypothesis has not only survived contact with economics, but has flourished.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-172, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:25:y:2011:i:3:p:153-72
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.25.3.153
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.25.3.153
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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