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Causes and consequences of early-life health

  • Anne Case


  • Christina Paxson

We examine the consequences of child health for economic and health outcomes in adulthood, using height as a marker of childhood health. After reviewing previous evidence, we present a conceptual framework that highlights data limitations and methodological problems that complicate the study of this topic. We then present estimates of the associations between height and a range of outcomes—including schooling, employment, earnings, health, and cognitive ability—measured in fi ve data sets from early to late adulthood. These results indicate that, on average, taller individuals attain higher levels of education. Height is also positively associated with better economic, health, and cognitive outcomes. These associations are only partially explained by the higher average educational attainment of taller individuals. We then use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Children and Young Adults survey to document the associations between health, cognitive development, and growth in childhood. Even among children with the same mother, 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 infl uences health and economic status throughout adulthood.

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Article provided by Springer 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. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2006. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19425, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 12466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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..
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. James P Smith, 2008. "The Impact of Childhood Health on Adult Labor Market Outcomes," Working Papers 200814, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  8. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  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. Janet Currie, 2008. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," NBER Working Papers 13987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
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