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Obesity and Skill Attainment in Early Childhood

  • John Cawley
  • C. Katharina Spiess

This paper investigates the association between obesity and skill attainment in early childhood (aged 2-4 years). Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study are used to estimate models of developmental functioning in four critical areas (verbal skills, activities of daily living, motor skills, and social skills) as a function of various measures of weight (including body mass index and obesity) controlling for a rich set of child, parent, and family characteristics. The findings indicate that, among boys, obesity is associated with reduced verbal skills, social skills, motor skills, and activities of daily living. Among girls, obesity is associated with reduced verbal skills. Further investigations show that the correlations exist even for those preschool children who spend no time in day care, which implies that it cannot be due solely to discrimination by teachers, classmates, or day care providers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13997.

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Date of creation: May 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Cawley, John and C. Katharina Spiess. “Obesity and Skill Attainment in Early Childhood.” Economics and Human Biology, December 2008, 6(3): 388-397.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13997
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  1. Paraponaris, Alain & Saliba, Berengere & Ventelou, Bruno, 2005. "Obesity, weight status and employability: Empirical evidence from a French national survey," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 241-258, July.
  2. Brunello, Giorgio & D'Hombres, Beatrice, 2007. "Does body weight affect wages?: Evidence from Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, March.
  3. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance John & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2005. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 1675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Heckman, James J., 2007. "The Economics, Technology and Neuroscience of Human Capability Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 2875, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. John Cawley & Markus M. Grabka & Dean R. Lillard, 2005. "A Comparison of the Relationship between Obesity and Earnings in the U.S. and Germany," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 125(1), pages 119-129.
  8. Katja Coneus & Friedhelm Pfeiffer, 2007. "Self-Productivity in Early Childhood," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 39, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  9. Thomas, D., 1995. "Like Father, Like Son, Like Mother, Like Daughter, Parental Resources and Child Height," Papers 95-01, RAND - Reprint Series.
  10. Zagorsky, Jay L., 2005. "Health and wealth: The late-20th century obesity epidemic in the U.S," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 296-313, July.
  11. Heineck, Guido, 2006. "Height and weight in Germany, evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel, 2002," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 359-382, December.
  12. Morris, Stephen, 2007. "The impact of obesity on employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 413-433, June.
  13. Joseph J. Sabia, 2007. "The Effect of Body Weight on Adolescent Academic Performance," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 871–900, April.
  14. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  15. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) – Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 139-169.
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