IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/hka/wpaper/2018-089.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Beyond Birth Weight: The Origins of Human Capital

Author

Listed:
  • Gabriella Conti

    (University College London)

  • Mark Hanson

    (University of Southampton)

  • Hazel Inskip

    (MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton)

  • Sarah Crozier

    (MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton)

  • Cyrus Cooper

    (MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton)

  • Keith Godfrey

    (University of Southampton)

Abstract

Birth weight is the most widely used indicator of neonatal health. It has been consistently shown to relate to a variety of outcomes throughout the life cycle. Lower birth weight babies have worse health and cognition from childhood, lower educational attainment, wages, and longevity. But what's in birth weight? What are the aspects of the prenatal environment that birth weight actually reflect? In this paper we address this fundamental, yet currently unanswered, question, using unique data with fetal ultrasound measurements from two UK sources. We show that birth weight provides a distinctly limited picture of the uterine environment, capturing both positive and negative aspects of fetal health. Other newborn measures are more informative about different dimensions of the prenatal environment and more predictive of child growth and cognitive development, beyond birth weight. Additionally, patterns of fetal growth are predictive of child physical and mental health conditions, beyond health at birth. Our results are robust to correcting for measurement error, and to accounting for child- and mother-specific unobserved heterogeneity. Our analysis rationalizes a common finding in the early origins literature, that prenatal events can influence postnatal development without affecting birth outcomes. It further clarifies the role of birth weight and height as markers of early health, and suggests caution in adopting birth weight as the main target of prenatal interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriella Conti & Mark Hanson & Hazel Inskip & Sarah Crozier & Cyrus Cooper & Keith Godfrey, 2018. "Beyond Birth Weight: The Origins of Human Capital," Working Papers 2018-089, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2018-089
    Note: HI
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Conti_Hanson_Inskip_etal_2018_beyond-birth-weight.pdf
    File Function: First version, November 16, 2018
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Heather Royer, 2009. "Separated at Girth: US Twin Estimates of the Effects of Birth Weight," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 49-85, January.
    2. Elisabetta De Cao, 2015. "The Height Production Function from Birth to Age Two," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(3), pages 329-363.
    3. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2013. "Fetal Origins and Parental Responses," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 37-56, May.
    4. Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Health as human capital: synthesis and extensions -super-1," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(3), pages 379-410, July.
    5. Duc, Le Thuc & Behrman, Jere R., 2017. "Heterogeneity in predictive power of early childhood nutritional indicators for mid-childhood outcomes: Evidence from Vietnam," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 86-95.
    6. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
    7. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439.
    8. Cheti Nicoletti & Birgitta Rabe, 2012. "The effect of school resources on test scores in England," Discussion Papers 12/19, Department of Economics, University of York.
    9. Alexandre Belloni & Victor Chernozhukov & Christian Hansen, 2014. "High-Dimensional Methods and Inference on Structural and Treatment Effects," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 29-50, Spring.
    10. Hilary Hoynes & Doug Miller & David Simon, 2015. "Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Infant Health," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 172-211, February.
    11. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2018. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(4), pages 1360-1446, December.
    12. repec:pri:cheawb:case_and_paxson_early_life_health_w15637 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Gabriella Conti & Giacomo Mason & Stavros Poupakis, 2019. "Developmental Origins of Health Inequality," Working Papers 2019-041, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    14. Prashant Bharadwaj & Petter Lundborg & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2018. "Birth Weight in the Long Run," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(1), pages 189-231.
    15. Emily Oster, 2019. "Unobservable Selection and Coefficient Stability: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(2), pages 187-204, April.
    16. repec:pri:cheawb:case_and_paxson_early_life_health_w15637.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Robert William Fogel, 1993. "New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging," NBER Historical Working Papers 0026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
    19. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2010. "Causes and consequences of early-life health," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(1), pages 65-85, March.
    20. Deaton, Angus & Arora, Raksha, 2009. "Life at the top: The benefits of height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 133-136, July.
    21. Philip Oreopoulos & Mark Stabile & Randy Walld & Leslie L. Roos, 2008. "Short-, Medium-, and Long-Term Consequences of Poor Infant Health: An Analysis Using Siblings and Twins," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
    22. Grossman, Michael & Joyce, Theodore J, 1990. "Unobservables, Pregnancy Resolutions, and Birth Weight Production Functions in New York City," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 983-1007, October.
    23. David Figlio & Jonathan Guryan & Krzysztof Karbownik & Jeffrey Roth, 2014. "The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Children's Cognitive Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(12), pages 3921-3955, December.
    24. 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.
    25. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
    26. Black, Sandra & Bütikofer, Aline & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G, 2013. "This Is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout," CEPR Discussion Papers 9443, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    27. Puentes, Esteban & Wang, Fan & Behrman, Jere R. & Cunha, Flavio & Hoddinott, John & Maluccio, John A. & Adair, Linda S. & Borja, Judith B. & Martorell, Reynaldo & Stein, Aryeh D., 2016. "Early life height and weight production functions with endogenous energy and protein inputs," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 65-81.
    28. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 1991. "Inequality at birth : The scope for policy intervention," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 205-228, October.
    29. 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.
    30. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1995. "Sisters, Siblings, and Mothers: The Effect of Teen-Age Childbearing on Birth Outcomes in a Dynamic Family Context," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(2), pages 303-326, March.
    31. Douglas Almond & Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2011. "Inside the War on Poverty: The Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 387-403, May.
    32. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083.
    33. repec:pri:rpdevs:case_and_paxson_early_life_health_w15637 is not listed on IDEAS
    34. Iris Kesternich & Bettina Siflinger & James P. Smith & Joachim K. Winter, 2015. "Individual Behaviour as a Pathway between Early†life Shocks and Adult Health: Evidence from Hunger Episodes in Post†war Germany," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(588), pages 372-393, November.
    35. 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 1263-1296, December.
    36. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
    37. 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.
    38. repec:ucn:wpaper:10197/317 is not listed on IDEAS
    39. 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 15 Mar 2004.
    40. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2011. "Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance during Pregnancy," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 56-85, October.
    41. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Battistin, Erich & Lamarche, Carlos & Rettore, Enrico, 2020. "Quantiles of the Gain Distribution of an Early Childhood Intervention," IZA Discussion Papers 13101, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Daniel Auer & Johannes S. Kunz, 2021. "Communication Barriers and Infant Health: Intergenerational Effects of Randomly Allocating Refugees Across Language Regions," Papers 2021-05, Centre for Health Economics, Monash University.
    3. Gabriella Conti & Giacomo Mason & Stavros Poupakis, 2019. "Developmental Origins of Health Inequality," Working Papers 2019-041, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    4. Trejo, Sam, 2020. "Exploring Genetic Influences on Birth Weight," SocArXiv 7j59q, Center for Open Science.
    5. De Cao, Elisabetta & McCormick, Barry & Nicodemo, Catia, 2019. "Does Unemployment Worsen Babies' Health? A Tale of Siblings, Maternal Behaviour and Selection," IZA Discussion Papers 12568, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Clark, Andrew E. & D’Ambrosio, Conchita & Rohde, Nicholas, 2021. "Prenatal economic shocks and birth outcomes in UK cohort data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Gabriella Conti & Giacomo Mason & Stavros Poupakis, 2019. "Developmental origins of health inequality," IFS Working Papers W19/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    2. Møllegaard, Stine, 2020. "The effect of birth weight on behavioral problems in early adolescence: New evidence from monozygotic twins," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 36(C).
    3. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet, 2011. "Human Capital Development before Age Five," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 15, pages 1315-1486, Elsevier.
    5. Cassandra Robertson & Rourke O’Brien, 2018. "Health Endowment at Birth and Variation in Intergenerational Economic Mobility: Evidence From U.S. County Birth Cohorts," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(1), pages 249-269, February.
    6. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2018. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(4), pages 1360-1446, December.
    7. Yuda, Michio, 2020. "Childhood health and future outcomes: Evidence from panel surveys for the Japanese population," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C).
    8. Del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2008. "Intrafamily Resource Allocations: A Dynamic Model of Birth Weight," IZA Discussion Papers 3704, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Maruyama, Shiko & Heinesen, Eskil, 2020. "Another look at returns to birthweight," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    10. Amarante, Veronica & Manacorda, Marco & Miguel, Edward & Vigorito, Andrea, 2011. "Do Cash Transfers Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from Matched Vital Statistics, Social Security and Program Data," IZA Discussion Papers 6231, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Kamble, Vaibhav, 2021. "Health Returns to Birth Weight: Evidence from Developing Countries," MPRA Paper 105150, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Sievertsen, Hans Henrik, 2020. "Neonatal health of parents and cognitive development of children," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(C).
    13. Verónica Amarante & Marco Manacorda & Edward Miguel & Andrea Vigorito, 2016. "Do Cash Transfers Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from Matched Vital Statistics, Program, and Social Security Data," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 1-43, May.
    14. Petter Lundborg & Carl Hampus Lyttkens & Paul Nystedt, 2016. "The Effect of Schooling on Mortality: New Evidence From 50,000 Swedish Twins," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(4), pages 1135-1168, August.
    15. Mark E. Mcgovern, 2013. "Still Unequal at Birth: Birth Weight,Socio-economic Status and Outcomes at Age 9," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 44(1), pages 53-84.
    16. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439.
    17. Mocan, Naci & Raschke, Christian & Unel, Bulent, 2015. "The impact of mothers’ earnings on health inputs and infant health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 204-223.
    18. Del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John, 2009. "Birth Weight and the Dynamics of Early Cognitive and Behavioural Development," IZA Discussion Papers 4270, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    19. Akbulut-Yuksel, Mevlude & Kugler, Adriana D., 2016. "Intergenerational persistence of health: Do immigrants get healthier as they remain in the U.S. for more generations?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 136-148.
    20. Lin, Ming-Jen & Liu, Elaine M., 2014. "Does in utero exposure to Illness matter? The 1918 influenza epidemic in Taiwan as a natural experiment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 152-163.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    birth weight; fetal development; prenatal investments; developmental origins of health;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2018-089. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/mfichus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Jennifer Pachon (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/mfichus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.