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From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes

  • Sandra E Black
  • Paul J Devereux
  • Kjell G Salvanes

Lower birth weight babies have worse outcomes, both short-run in terms of one-year mortality rates and longer run in terms of educational attainment and earnings. However, recent research has called into question whether birth weight itself is important or whether it simply reflects other hard-to-measure characteristics. By applying within twin techniques using an unusually rich dataset from Norway, we examine the effects of birth weight on both short-run and long-run outcomes for the same cohorts. We find that birth weight does matter; despite short-run twin fixed effects estimates that are much smaller than OLS estimates, the effects on longer-run outcomes such as adult height, IQ, earnings, and education are significant and similar in magnitude to OLS estimates. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/qjec.122.1.409
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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 409-439

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:1:p:409-439
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  1. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700, May.
  2. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2005. "Biology as Destiny? Short and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 11567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ashlesha Datar & M. Rebecca Kilburn & David S. Loughran, 2006. "Health Endowments and Parental Investments in Infancy and Early Childhood," Working Papers 367, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  4. Janet Currie & Rosemary Hyson, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," NBER Working Papers 6999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2003. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall Far: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 10066, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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).
  7. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Changes in the Medicaid Eligibility of Pregnant Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-96, December.
  8. Strauss, J. & Thomas, D., 1995. "Health, Nutrition and Economic development," Papers 95-23, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  9. Conley, Dalton & Strully, Kate W. & Bennett, Neil G., 2006. "Twin differences in birth weight: The effects of genotype and prenatal environment on neonatal and post-neonatal mortality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 151-183, June.
  10. David S. Loughran & Ashlesha Datar & M. Rebecca Kilburn, 2004. "The Interactive Effect of Birth Weight and Parental Investment on Child Test Scores," Working Papers 168, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
  14. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083, August.
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