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A Validation Study of Transgenerational Effects of Childhood Conditions on the Third Generation Offspring's Economic and Health Outcomes Potentially Driven by Epigenetic Imprinting

  • van den Berg, Gerard J.


    (University of Mannheim)

  • Pinger, Pia


    (University of Bonn)

At the crossroads of economics and human biology, this paper examines the extent to which pre-puberty nutritional conditions in one generation affect productivity-related outcomes in later generations. Recent studies have found a negative association between conditions at ages 8-12 and the grandchild's over-all and cardiovascular and diabetes mortality in a single historical dataset. It has been argued that this association reflects epigenetic imprinting, which has been corroborated in animal studies. We provide an external validation by analyzing the impact of the German famine of 1916-1918 on children and grandchildren of those exposed to the famine at ages 8-12. Our findings support and extend the evidence so far. Among the third generation, males (females) tend to have higher mental health scores if their paternal grandfather (maternal grandmother) was exposed. We do not find robust effects on the probability of obtaining an upper secondary education.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7999.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7999
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  1. Berg, Gerard J. van den & Pinger, Pia & Schoch, Johannes, 2012. "Instrumental Variable Estimation of the Causal Effect of Hunger Early in Life on Health Later in Life," Working Papers 12-02, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.
  2. Ulrich Woitek, 1998. "Height Cycles in the 18th and 19th Centuries," Working Papers 9811, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  3. Blum, Matthias, 2011. "Government decisions before and during the First World War and the living standards in Germany during a drastic natural experiment," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 556-567.
  4. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Biological Measures of the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 129-152, Winter.
  5. Sunder, Marco & Woitek, Ulrich, 2005. "Boom, bust, and the human body: Further evidence on the relationship between height and business cycles," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 450-466, December.
  6. Lundborg, Petter & Stenberg, Anders, 2010. "Nature, nurture and socioeconomic policy--What can we learn from molecular genetics?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 320-330, December.
  7. Lindeboom, Maarten & Portrait, France & van den Berg, Gerard J., 2010. "Long-run effects on longevity of a nutritional shock early in life: The Dutch Potato famine of 1846-1847," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 617-629, September.
  8. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP): Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  9. Matthias Nübling & Hanfried H. Andersen & Axel Mühlbacher & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2007. "Computation of Standard Values for Physical and Mental Health Scale Scores Using the SOEP Version of SF12v2," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 171-182.
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