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The Relationship between Maternal Pre-Pregnancy BMI and Preschool Obesity

Author

Listed:
  • Averett, Susan L.

    () (Lafayette College)

  • Fletcher, Erin K.

    () (Harvard University)

Abstract

The increasing prevalence of obesity during pregnancy raises concerns over the intergenerational transmission of obesity and its potential to exacerbate the current obesity epidemic. The fetal origins hypothesis posits that the intrauterine environment might have lasting effects on children's outcomes. A large literature establishes that mother's pre-pregnancy obesity is correlated with obesity in her children. However, previous research is largely based on comparing individuals across families and hence cannot control for unobservable factors associated with both maternal and child obesity. We use both within-family comparisons and an instrumental variable approach on a sample of 4435 children to identify the effect of maternal pre-pregnancy obesity on obesity in preschool-aged children. Consistent with extant research, OLS models that rely on across-family comparisons indicate a significant correlation between maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and preschool obesity. However, maternal fixed effects render those associations insignificant. Instrumenting for mother's BMI with her sisters' BMI values confirms the null result indicating that the in utero transmission of obesity is likely not driving the increase in childhood obesity.

Suggested Citation

  • Averett, Susan L. & Fletcher, Erin K., 2015. "The Relationship between Maternal Pre-Pregnancy BMI and Preschool Obesity," IZA Discussion Papers 9608, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9608
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fiese, Barbara H. & Hammons, Amber & Grigsby-Toussaint, Diana, 2012. "Family mealtimes: A contextual approach to understanding childhood obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 365-374.
    2. Kaestner, Robert & Grossman, Michael, 2009. "Effects of weight on children's educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 651-661, December.
    3. Susanne James-Burdumy, 2005. "The Effect of Maternal Labor Force Participation on Child Development," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 177-211, January.
    4. Yan, Ji, 2015. "Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain, and infant birth weight: A within-family analysis in the United States," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 18(C), pages 1-12.
    5. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder & Reyn van Ewijk, 2011. "Fasting During Pregnancy and Children's Academic Performance," NBER Working Papers 17713, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Cawley, John & Meyerhoefer, Chad, 2012. "The medical care costs of obesity: An instrumental variables approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 219-230.
    7. Susan Averett & David Stifel, 2010. "Race and gender differences in the cognitive effects of childhood overweight," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(17), pages 1673-1679.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    preschool obesity; pre-pregnancy obesity; gestational weight gain;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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