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Mother’s Education and Birth Weight


  • Chevalier, Arnaud

    () (Royal Holloway, University of London)

  • O'Sullivan, Vincent

    () (Lancaster University)


Low birth weight has considerable short and long-term consequences and leads to high costs to the individual and society even in a developed economy. Low birth weight is partially a consequence of choices made by the mother pre- and during pregnancy. Thus policies affecting these choices could have large returns. Using British data, maternal education is found to be positively correlated with birth weight. We identify a causal effect of education using the 1947 reform of the minimum school leaving age. Change in compulsory school leaving age has been previously used as an instrument, but has been criticised for mostly picking up time trends. Here, we demonstrate that the policy effects differ by social background and hence provide identification across cohorts but also within cohort. We find modest but heterogenous positive effects of maternal education on birth weight with an increase from the baseline weight ranging from 2% to 6%.

Suggested Citation

  • Chevalier, Arnaud & O'Sullivan, Vincent, 2007. "Mother’s Education and Birth Weight," IZA Discussion Papers 2640, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2640

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    14. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1983. "Estimating a Household Production Function: Heterogeneity, the Demand for Health Inputs, and Their Effects on Birth Weight," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(5), pages 723-746, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kemptner, Daniel & Marcus, Jan, 2013. "Spillover Effects of Maternal Education on Child's Health and Health Behavior," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 29-54.
    2. Pfeiffer, Friedhelm & Coneus, Katja, 2007. "Self-Productivity in Early Childhood," ZEW Discussion Papers 07-053 [rev.], ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    3. Anderberg, Dan & Chevalier, Arnaud & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "Anatomy of a health scare: Education, income and the MMR controversy in the UK," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 515-530, May.
    4. 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.
    5. Sanjay RODE, 2015. "The Socio Economic Determinants Of Low Birth Weight Babies Of Slums In Mumbai Metropolitan Region," Business Excellence and Management, Faculty of Management, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 5(2), pages 68-83, June.
    6. Janet Currie, 2009. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 87-122, March.
    7. Ghouse, Ghulam & Zaid, Muhammad, 2016. "Determinants of Low Birth Weight a Cross Sectional Study: In Case of Pakistan," MPRA Paper 70660, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    returns to education; health;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I29 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Other

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