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Low birth weight and health expenditures from birth to late adolescence


  • Michael Hummer
  • Thomas Lehner

    () (Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria)

  • Gerald J. Pruckner


Using administrative panel data of health insurants, we estimate the effects of low birth weight on health service utilization among children and young adults between birth and 21 years old. To account for time-invariant heterogeneity of mothers, we use sibling fixed- effects estimation. We find that low birth weight strongly increases subsequent health expenditures and that the effect is particularly pronounced in the first year of life. Starting in compulsory schooling, we observe a shift in expenditures to mental-health problems. Whereas the effects on physical health disappear over time, we provide evidence that mental-health problems prevail until early adulthood. We therefore suggest a screening program tailored to the conditions more likely to be contracted by low-birth-weight children in order to mitigate the negative health consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Hummer & Thomas Lehner & Gerald J. Pruckner, 2012. "Low birth weight and health expenditures from birth to late adolescence," Economics working papers 2012-06, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  • Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2012_06

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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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Heckman, James J. & Moon, Seong Hyeok & Pinto, Rodrigo & Savelyev, Peter A. & Yavitz, Adam, 2010. "The rate of return to the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 114-128, February.
    5. 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).
    6. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: A reexamination of the evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(1), pages 1-46, July.
    7. Conley, Dalton & Strully, Kate W. & Bennett, Neil G., 2006. "Twin differences in birth weight: The effects of genotype and prenatal environment on neonatal and post-neonatal mortality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 151-183, June.
    8. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile & Phongsack Manivong & Leslie L. Roos, 2010. "Child Health and Young Adult Outcomes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
    9. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-172, Summer.
    10. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Reif, S.; Wichert, S.; Wuppermann, A.;, 2017. "Is it good to be too light? Birth weight thresholds in hospital reimbursement systems," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 17/15, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.

    More about this item


    Low birth weight; health expenditures; sibling fixed-effects;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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