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Birth Weight and the Dynamics of Early Cognitive and Behavioural Development


  • Del Bono, Emilia

    () (ISER, University of Essex)

  • Ermisch, John

    () (University of Oxford)


In this paper we explore the impact of birth weight on children's cognitive and behavioural outcomes using data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. In order to deal with the endogeneity of birth weight we use an estimator based on the eliminant method. When coupled with ordinary least squares, this estimator allows us to bound the effects of birth weight. The results show that birth weight has significant but very small effects on male cognitive development at age 3 and on female cognitive and behavioural outcomes at age 3. We also find that birth weight affects age 5 outcomes only through previous achievements, and that the overall impact fades out over time. These findings call into question the effectiveness of birth weight as a policy target.

Suggested Citation

  • Del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John, 2009. "Birth Weight and the Dynamics of Early Cognitive and Behavioural Development," IZA Discussion Papers 4270, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4270

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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. del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John F & Francesconi, Marco, 2008. "Intrafamily Resource Allocations: A Dynamic Model of Birth Weight," CEPR Discussion Papers 6970, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 31-47, May.
    4. 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.
    5. John Ermisch, 2008. "Origins of Social Immobility and Inequality: Parenting and Early Child Development," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 205(1), pages 62-71, July.
    6. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
    7. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 3-33, February.
    8. 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).
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Baker, Michael & Milligan, Kevin, 2008. "Maternal employment, breastfeeding, and health: Evidence from maternity leave mandates," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 871-887, July.
    12. 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.
    13. Mark R. Rosenzweig & T. Paul Schultz, 1988. "The Stability of Household Production Technology: A Replication," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(4), pages 535-549.
    14. 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.
    15. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1997:87:12:1962-1966_7 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Hope Corman & Theodore J. Joyce & Michael Grossman, 1985. "Birth Outcome Production Functions in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 1729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:econom:v:199:y:2017:i:2:p:141-155 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. McDonough, Ian K. & Millimet, Daniel L., 2017. "Missing data, imputation, and endogeneity," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 199(2), pages 141-155.

    More about this item


    birth weight; production function; child development;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • 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

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