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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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    Cited by:

    1. Backes-Gellner, Uschi & Herz, Holger & Kosfeld, Michael & Oswald, Yvonne, 2018. "Do Preferences and Biases predict Life Outcomes? Evidence from Education and Labor Market Entry Decisions," CEPR Discussion Papers 12609, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Bhalotra, S.; & Karlsson, M.; & Nilsson, T.; & Schwarz, N.;, 2018. "Infant Health, Cognitive Performance and Earnings: Evidence from Inception of the Welfare State in Sweden," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 18/06, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    3. Heinrich, Timo & Shachat, Jason, 2018. "The development of risk aversion and prudence in Chinese children and adolescents," MPRA Paper 86456, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Time preferences; risk preferences; altruism; experiments with children; origins of preferences; childhood environment; breastfeeding;

    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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