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The Influence of Early-Life Events on Human Capital, Health Status, and Labor Market Outcomes Over the Life Course

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  • Johnson Rucker C

    () (University of California, Berkeley)

  • Schoeni Robert F

    () (University of Michigan)

Abstract

Using national data from the U.S., we find that poor health at birth and limited parental resources (including low income, lack of health insurance, and unwanted pregnancy) interfere with cognitive development and health capital in childhood, reduce educational attainment, and lead to worse labor market and health outcomes in adulthood. These effects are substantial and robust to the inclusion of sibling fixed effects and an extensive set of controls. The results reveal that low birth weight ages people in their 30s and 40s by 12 years, increases the probability of dropping out of high school by one-third, lowers labor force participation by 5 percentage points, and reduces labor market earnings by roughly 15 percent. While poor birth outcomes reduce human capital accumulation, they explain only 10 percent of the total effect of low birth weight on labor market earnings. Taken together, the evidence is consistent with a negative reinforcing intergenerational transmission of disadvantage within the family; parental economic status influences birth outcomes, birth outcomes have long reaching effects on health and economic status in adulthood, which in turn leads to poor birth outcomes for one’s own children.

Suggested Citation

  • Johnson Rucker C & Schoeni Robert F, 2011. "The Influence of Early-Life Events on Human Capital, Health Status, and Labor Market Outcomes Over the Life Course," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(3), pages 1-57, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:11:y:2011:i:3:n:3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Lin, Ming-Jen & Liu, Elaine M., 2014. "Does in utero exposure to Illness matter? The 1918 influenza epidemic in Taiwan as a natural experiment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 152-163.
    3. Jason Fletcher, 2012. "The Effects of First Occupation on Long Term Health Status: Evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 49-75, March.
    4. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2008. "Does education improve health? A reexamination of the evidence from compulsory schooling laws," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 2-16.
    5. Lina Cardona-Sosa & Carlos Medina, 2016. "The Effects of In utero Programs on Birth Outcomes: The Case of “Buen Comienzo” *** El Efecto de Programas dirigidos a Madres Gestantes en Indicadores al Nacer: El caso de “Buen Comienzo”," Borradores de Economia 955, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    6. Johnson Rucker C., 2012. "Health Dynamics and the Evolution of Health Inequality over the Life Course: The Importance of Neighborhood and Family Background," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(3), pages 1-69, January.
    7. Tamm, Marcus, 2013. "The Impact of a Large Parental Leave Benefit Reform on the Timing of Birth around the Day of Implementation," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 585-601.
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    12. repec:eee:socmed:v:194:y:2017:i:c:p:67-75 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Eriksson, Tor & Pan, Jay & Qin, Xuezheng, 2014. "The intergenerational inequality of health in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 392-409.
    14. repec:spr:soinre:v:135:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1493-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Markowitz, Sara & Komro, Kelli A. & Livingston, Melvin D. & Lenhart, Otto & Wagenaar, Alexander C., 2017. "Effects of state-level Earned Income Tax Credit laws in the U.S. on maternal health behaviors and infant health outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 67-75.
    16. Richard Akresh & Redstone Akresh, 2011. "Using Achievement Tests to Measure Language Assimilation and Language Bias among the Children of Immigrants," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(3), pages 647-667.
    17. Lê, Félice & Diez Roux, Ana & Morgenstern, Hal, 2013. "Effects of child and adolescent health on educational progress," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 57-66.
    18. Janet Currie, 2009. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 87-122, March.
    19. Maczulskij, Terhi & Böckerman, Petri, 2017. "Harsh Times: Do Stressors Lead to Labor Market Losses?," IZA Discussion Papers 10773, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    20. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    21. Hitoshi Shigeoka, 2015. "School Entry Cutoff Date and the Timing of Births," NBER Working Papers 21402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Kerris Cooper & Kitty Stewart, 2017. "Does Money Affect Children’s Outcomes? An update," CASE Papers /203, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.

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