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Early-life environment, eight and BMI of young adult males in Italy


  • Emilia Arcaleni
  • Franco Peracchi


This paper studies the relationship between the two main dimensions of early-life environment, namely disease burden (measured by infant mortality) and economic conditions (measured by income or consumption per capita), and height and body-mass index (BMI) of recent cohorts of young adult males in Italy. By combining high-quality micro-level data on height and weight with regional- and province-level information, we are able to link individual height and BMI at age 18 to regional and provincial averages of environmental variables in the year of birth. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that, in rich low-mortality setting, the scarring effects of childhood disease dominate selection. We also show that both income and disease matter, and their relative importance differs depending on the outcome considered and the available background information. In particular, we find that income matters more than disease for height, while the opposite is true for BMI. Finally, using detailed province-level information, we show that income per capita is a proxy for a variety of environmental indicators that are highly correlated with economic conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Emilia Arcaleni & Franco Peracchi, "undated". "Early-life environment, eight and BMI of young adult males in Italy," Working Papers 4, Department of the Treasury, Ministry of the Economy and of Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:itt:wpaper:wp2011-4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. García Villar, Jaume & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2009. "Income and body mass index in Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 73-83, March.
    2. Brian A’hearn & Franco Peracchi & Giovanni Vecchi, 2009. "Height and the normal distribution: evidence from italian military data," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 46(1), pages 1-25, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fernihough, Alan & McGovern, Mark E., 2015. "Physical stature decline and the health status of the elderly population in England," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 30-44.

    More about this item


    Body height; BMI; obesity; income; infant mortality;

    JEL classification:

    • C31 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models; Quantile Regressions; Social Interaction Models
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth


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