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Early Childhood Environment, Breastfeeding and the Formation of Preferences

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  • Armin Falk
  • Fabian Kosse

Abstract

This study provides insights on the role of early childhood family environment within the process of preference formation. We start by presenting evidence showing that breastfeeding duration is a valid measure of the quality of early childhood environment. In the main analysis, we then investigate how early childhood environment affects the formation of fundamental economic preferences such as time, risk, and social preferences. In a sample of preschool children we find that longer breastfeeding duration is associated with higher levels of patience and altruism as well as a lower willingness to take risk. Repeating the analysis on a sample of young adults indicates that the observed pattern is replicable and persists into adulthood. Importantly, in both data sets our findings are robust when controlling for cognitive ability and parental socio-economic status. We can further rule out that the results are purely driven by nutritional effects of breastfeeding. Altogether, our findings strongly suggest that early childhood environment as measured by breastfeeding duration systematically and persistently affects preference formation.

Suggested Citation

  • Armin Falk & Fabian Kosse, 2016. "Early Childhood Environment, Breastfeeding and the Formation of Preferences," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 882, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp882
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    2. Fabel, Marc, 2021. "Maternity leave and children's health outcomes in the long-term," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    3. John A. List & Ragan Petrie & Anya Samek, 2021. "How Experiments with Children Inform Economics," NBER Working Papers 28825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Frans van Winden, 2021. "The Informational Affective Tie Mechanism: On the Role of Uncertainty, Context, and Attention in Caring," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 21-012/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    5. Backes-Gellner, Uschi & Herz, Holger & Kosfeld, Michael & Oswald, Yvonne, 2021. "Do preferences and biases predict life outcomes? Evidence from education and labor market entry decisions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
    6. Deckers, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Kosse, Fabian & Pinger, Pia & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2017. "Socio-economic status and inequalities in children's IQ and economic preferences," DICE Discussion Papers 274, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    7. Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein & Anat Vaturi, 2019. "Child Care and Human Development: Insights from Jewish History in Central and Eastern Europe, 1500–1930," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 129(623), pages 2637-2690.
    8. Bašić, Zvonimir & Falk, Armin & Kosse, Fabian, 2020. "The development of egalitarian norm enforcement in childhood and adolescence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 667-680.
    9. Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Schwarz, Nina, 2016. "Infant Health, Cognitive Performance and Earnings: Evidence from Inception of the Welfare State in Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 10339, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Timo Heinrich & Jason Shachat, 2020. "The development of risk aversion and prudence in Chinese children and adolescents," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 61(3), pages 263-287, December.
    11. James Andreoni & Michael Kuhn & John List & Anya Samek & Charles Sprenger, 2017. "Field experiments on the development of time preferences," Artefactual Field Experiments 00615, The Field Experiments Website.
    12. Abu Siddique, 2021. "Behavioral Consequences of Religious Education," Munich Papers in Political Economy 10, TUM School of Governance at the Technical University of Munich.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Time preferences; risk preferences; altruism; experiments with children; origins of preferences; childhood environment; breastfeeding;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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