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Causes and consequences of early-life health

  • Anne Case


  • Christina Paxson

We examine the consequences of childhood health for economic and health outcomes in adulthood, using height as a marker of health in childhood. After reviewing previous evidence, we present a conceptual framework that highlights data limitations and methodological problems associated with the study of this topic. We present estimates of the associations between height and a range of outcomes, including schooling, employment, earnings, health and cognitive ability, using data collected from early to late adulthood on cohort members in five longitudinal data sets. We find height is uniformly associated with better economic, health and cognitive outcomes, a result only partially explained by the higher average educational attainment of taller individuals. We then turn to the NLSY79 Children and Young Adult Survey to better understand what specific aspects of early childhood are captured by height. We find, even among maternal siblings, taller siblings score better on cognitive tests and progress through school more quickly. Part of the differences found between siblings arises from differences in their birth weights and lengths attributable to mother?s behaviors while pregnant. Taken together, these results support the hypothesis that childhood health influences health and economic status throughout the life course.

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Article provided by Springer & Population Association of America (PAA) in its journal Demography.

Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: S65-S85

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Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:47:y:2010:i:1:p:s65-s85
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  1. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2011. "The Long Reach of Childhood Health and Circumstance: Evidence from the Whitehall II Study," Working Papers 1285, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  2. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2001. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height, Third Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-013, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 05 Jan 2004.
  3. 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.
  4. Anne Case & Christina Paxson & Mahnaz Islam, 2008. "Making Sense Of The Labor Market Height Premium: Evidence From The British Household Panel Survey," Working Papers 1072, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  5. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers 232, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  6. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," NBER Working Papers 10522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  8. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
  9. John A. Maluccio & John Hoddinott & Jere R. Behrman & Reynaldo Martorell & Agnes R. Quisumbing & Aryeh D. Stein, 2009. "The Impact of Improving Nutrition During Early Childhood on Education among Guatemalan Adults," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(537), pages 734-763, 04.
  10. repec:pri:rpdevs:w14007%20case%20paxson%20and%20islam is not listed on IDEAS
  11. repec:pri:cheawb:w14007%20case%20paxson%20and%20islam is not listed on IDEAS
  12. James P. Smith, 2009. "The Impact of Childhood Health on Adult Labor Market Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 478-489, August.
  13. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 1864, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Chandola, Tarani & Bartley, Mel & Sacker, Amanda & Jenkinson, Crispin & Marmot, Michael, 2003. "Health selection in the Whitehall II study, UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(10), pages 2059-2072, May.
  15. repec:pri:cheawb:w14007%20case%20paxson%20and%20islam.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
  16. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
  17. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
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