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Childhood economic conditions and length of life: Evidence from the UK Boyd Orr cohort, 1937-2005

  • Frijters, Paul
  • Hatton, Timothy J.
  • Martin, Richard M.
  • Shields, Michael A.

We study the importance of childhood socioeconomic conditions in predicting differences in life expectancy using data from a large sample of children collected in 16 locations in England and Scotland in 1937-39, who have been traced through official death records up to 2005. We estimate a number of duration of life models that control for unobserved family heterogeneity. Our results confirm that childhood conditions such as household income and the quality of the home environment are significant predictors of longevity. Importantly, however, the role of socioeconomic status appears to differ across cause of death, with household income being a significant predictor of death from smoking-related cancer. Moreover, we find that (1) poor housing conditions in childhood is associated with reduced longevity, that (2) early doctor-assessed childhood health conditions significantly predict a reduced length of life, that (3) children born in a location with relatively high infant mortality rates live significantly fewer years, and that (4) there is a high correlation in longevity across children from the same family across all causes of death. We estimate that the difference in life expectancy between those with the 'best' and 'worst' observable characteristics is about 9 years, which increases to 20 years when we take into account the 'best' and 'worst' observable and unobservable household characteristics.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 39-47

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:29:y:2010:i:1:p:39-47
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505560

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  1. Booth, Alison L. & Kee, Hiau Joo, 2005. "Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment," IZA Discussion Papers 1713, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Anne Case & Angela Fertig & Christina Paxson, 2004. "The Lasting Impact of Childhood Health and Circumstance," Working Papers 246, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  3. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus S. Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child Mortality, Income and Adult Height," NBER Working Papers 12966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Modin, Bitte, 2002. "Birth order and mortality: a life-long follow-up of 14,200 boys and girls born in early 20th century Sweden," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1051-1064, April.
  5. Timothy J. Hatton & Roy >. Bailey, 2000. "Seebohm Rowntree and the postwar poverty puzzle," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 53(3), pages 517-543, 08.
  6. Jenifer Hamil-Luker & Angela O’rand, 2007. "Gender differences in the link between childhood socioeconomic conditions and heart attack risk in adulthood," Demography, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 137-158, February.
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