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Economic Conditions at Birth, Birth Weight, Ability, and the Causal Path to Cardiovascular Mortality

  • van den Berg, Gerard J.


    (University of Mannheim)

  • Modin, Bitte


    (Centre for Health Equity Studies - CHESS)

We analyze interaction effects of birth weight and the business cycle at birth on individual cardiovascular (CV) mortality later in life. In addition, we examine to what extent these long-run effects run by way of cognitive ability and education and to what extent those mitigate the long-run effects. We use individual records of Swedish birth cohorts from 1915–1929 covering birth weight, family characteristics, school grades, sibling identifiers, and outcomes later in life including the death cause. The birth weight distribution does not vary over the business cycle. The association between birth weight (across the full range) and CV mortality rate later in life is significantly stronger if the individual is born in a recession. This is not explained by differential fertility by social class over the cycle. Ability itself, as measured at age 10, varies with birth weight and the cycle at birth. But the long-run effects of early-life conditions appear to mostly reflect direct biological mechanisms. We do not find evidence of indirect pathways through ability or education, and the long-run effects are not mitigated by education.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7605.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7605
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  1. van den Berg, Gerard J. & Lindeboom, Maarten & Lopez, Marta, 2009. "Inequality in individual mortality and economic conditions earlier in life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1360-1367, November.
  2. Robert Kaestner & Won Chan Lee, 2003. "The Effect of Welfare Reform on Prenatal Care and Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 9769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083, August.
  4. Currie, J. & Cole, N., 1992. "Welfare and Child Health: the Link Between AFDC Participation and Birth Weight," Working papers 92-9, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Ridder, G. & Tunali, I., 1997. "Stratified Partial Likelihood Estimation," Papers 1997/17, Koc University.
  6. Rajeev Dehejia & Adriana LLeras Muney, 2004. "Booms, Busts, and Babies' Health," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 1091-1130, August.
  7. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
  8. 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.
  9. van den Berg, Gerard J. & Gupta, Sumedha, 2011. "The Role of Marriage in the Causal Pathway from Economic Conditions Early in Life to Mortality," IZA Discussion Papers 5454, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Narayan Sastry, 2004. "Trends in socioeconomic inequalities in mortality in developing countries: The case of child Survival in São Paulo, Brazil," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 443-464, August.
  11. Hart, C. L. & Taylor, M. D. & Smith, G. Davey & Whalley, L. J. & Starr, J. M. & Hole, D. J. & Wilson, V. & Deary, I. J., 2004. "Childhood IQ and cardiovascular disease in adulthood: prospective observational study linking the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan studies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(10), pages 2131-2138, November.
  12. Gerard J. van den Berg & Maarten Lindeboom & France Portrait, 2006. "Economic Conditions Early in Life and Individual Mortality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 290-302, March.
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