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Genes and the intergenerational transmission of BMI and obesity

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  • Classen, Timothy J.
  • Thompson, Owen

Abstract

This paper compares the strength of intergenerational transmission of body mass index (BMI) and obesity in a sample of adoptees relative to a matched sample of biological children with similar observable characteristics. We find that BMI and obesity are strongly correlated among biological parent-child pairs, but there are no significant intergenerational associations in these health traits among adoptive parent-child pairs. The intergenerational elasticity of BMI for children to their parents is 0.2 in the matched biological sample, but indistinguishable from zero for adopted children with a standard error more than three times as large as the coefficient. Under reasonable assumptions, these findings indicate that the intergenerational transmission of BMI and obesity occurs primarily through genetic mechanisms. Additional analyses of transmission rates by parental gender and among step-parents and step-children support this conclusion. The role of determinants of BMI and obesity in the household environment in relation to our findings is discussed. Given the negative consequences of obesity on earnings and other economic measures, our results suggest that the genetic transmission of weight problems contributes substantially to intergenerational persistence in economic outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Classen, Timothy J. & Thompson, Owen, 2016. "Genes and the intergenerational transmission of BMI and obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 121-133.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:23:y:2016:i:c:p:121-133
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2016.08.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jason Fletcher & Katie M. Jajtner, 2019. "Intergenerational Health Mobility: Magnitudes and Importance of Schools and Place," NBER Working Papers 26442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Duncan, Roberto & Toledo, Patricia, 2018. "Long-run overweight levels and convergence in body mass index," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 26-39.
    3. Stoklosa, Michal & Shuval, Kerem & Drope, Jeffrey & Tchernis, Rusty & Pachucki, Mark & Yaroch, Amy & Harding, Matthew, 2018. "The intergenerational transmission of obesity: The role of time preferences and self-control," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 92-106.
    4. Björkegren, Evelina & Lindahl, Mikael & Palme, Mårten & Simeonova, Emilia, 2019. "Pre- and Post-Birth Components of Intergenerational Persistence in Health and Longevity: Lessons from a Large Sample of Adoptees," Working Papers in Economics 770, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    5. Carrieri, Vincenzo & Jones, Andrew M., 2018. "Intergenerational transmission of nicotine within families: Have e-cigarettes influenced passive smoking?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 83-93.
    6. Amin, Vikesh & Dunn, Paul & Spector, Tim, 2018. "Does education attenuate the genetic risk of obesity? Evidence from U.K. Twins," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 200-208.

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    Keywords

    Obesity; Adoptees; Intergenerational;

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