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The effects of birth weight: Does fetal origin really matter for long-run outcomes?


  • Nakamuro, Makiko
  • Uzuki, Yuka
  • Inui, Tomohiko


This paper investigates whether birth weight itself causes individuals’ future life chances. By using a sample of twins in Japan and controlling for the potential effects of genes and family backgrounds, we examine the effect of birth weight on later educational and economic outcomes. The most important finding is that birth weight has a causal effect on academic achievement around the age of 15, but not on the highest years of schooling and earnings.

Suggested Citation

  • Nakamuro, Makiko & Uzuki, Yuka & Inui, Tomohiko, 2013. "The effects of birth weight: Does fetal origin really matter for long-run outcomes?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 53-58.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolet:v:121:y:2013:i:1:p:53-58 DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2013.07.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heather Royer, 2009. "Separated at Girth: US Twin Estimates of the Effects of Birth Weight," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 49-85, January.
    2. Neumark, David, 1999. "Biases in twin estimates of the return to schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 143-148, April.
    3. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439.
    4. Miller, Paul & Mulvey, Charles & Martin, Nick, 2005. "Birth weight and schooling and earnings: estimates from a sample of twins," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 86(3), pages 387-392, March.
    5. 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.
    6. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
    7. Bound, John & Solon, Gary, 1999. "Double trouble: on the value of twins-based estimation of the return to schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 169-182, April.
    8. Philip Oreopoulos & Mark Stabile & Randy Walld & Leslie L. Roos, 2008. "Short-, Medium-, and Long-Term Consequences of Poor Infant Health: An Analysis Using Siblings and Twins," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
    9. 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.
    10. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. NAKAMURO Makiko & INUI Tomohiko, 2013. "The Returns to College Quality in Japan: Does Your College Choice Affect Your Earnings?," ESRI Discussion paper series 306, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

    More about this item


    Birth weight; Nutritional intake; Identical twins; Endogeneity;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General


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