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

Author

Listed:
  • Black, Sandra E.

    () (University of Texas at Austin)

  • Devereux, Paul J.

    () (University College Dublin)

  • Salvanes, Kjell G.

    () (Norwegian School of Economics)

Abstract

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 a unique dataset from Norway, we examine both short-run and long-run outcomes for the same cohorts. We find that birth weight does matter; very small short-run fixed effect estimates can be misleading because longer-run effects on outcomes such as height, IQ, earnings, and education are significant and similar in magnitude to OLS estimates. Our estimates suggest that eliminating birth weight differences between socio-economic groups would have sizeable effects on the later outcomes of children from poorer families.

Suggested Citation

  • 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).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1864
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 766-817.
    2. Ashlesha Datar & M. Rebecca Kilburn & David S Loughran, 2006. "Health Endowments and Parental Investments in Infancy and Early Childhood," Working Papers 367, RAND Corporation.
    3. 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, Oxford University Press, pages 669-700.
    4. repec:pri:cheawb:case_paxson_impact_childhood_health.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532.
    7. Janet Currie & Enrico Moreti, 2005. "Biology As Destiny? Short And Long-Run Determinants Of Intergenerational Transmission Of Birth Weight," Working Papers id:194, eSocialSciences.
    8. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall Far: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 437-449.
    9. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 245-250.
    10. Jinyong Hahn & Whitney Newey, 2004. "Jackknife and Analytical Bias Reduction for Nonlinear Panel Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, pages 1295-1319.
    11. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "Biology as Destiny? Short- and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 231-264.
    12. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall Far: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 437-449.
    13. 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).
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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, pages 151-183.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. repec:pri:cheawb:case_paxson_impact_childhood_health is not listed on IDEAS
    21. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:5:799-804_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 766-817.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    education; twins; birth weight; IQ; earnings;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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