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Is Being in School Better? The Impact of School on Children's BMI When Starting Age is Endogenous


  • Patricia M. Anderson
  • Kristin F. Butcher
  • Elizabeth U. Cascio
  • Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach


In this paper, we investigate the impact of attending school on body weight and obesity. We use school starting age cutoff dates to compare weight outcomes for similar age children with different years of school exposure. As is the case with academic outcomes, school exposure is related to unobserved determinants of weight outcomes because some families choose to have their child start school late (or early). If one does not account for this endogeneity, it appears that an additional year of school exposure results in a greater BMI and a higher probability of being overweight or obese. When actual exposure is instrumented with expected exposure based on school starting dates and birthday, the significant positive effects disappear, and most point estimates become negative and insignificant. However, for children not eating the school lunch, there is a significant negative effect on the probability of being overweight.

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  • Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Elizabeth U. Cascio & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2011. "Is Being in School Better? The Impact of School on Children's BMI When Starting Age is Endogenous," NBER Working Papers 16673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16673
    Note: CH HE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Deming & Susan Dynarski, 2008. "The Lengthening of Childhood," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(3), pages 71-92, Summer.
    2. Justin McCrary & Heather Royer, 2011. "The Effect of Female Education on Fertility and Infant Health: Evidence from School Entry Policies Using Exact Date of Birth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 158-195, February.
    3. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.080754_8 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    5. David E. Frisvold & Julie C. Lumeng, 2011. "Expanding Exposure: Can Increasing the Daily Duration of Head Start Reduce Childhood Obesity?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(2), pages 373-402.
    6. Dobkin, Carlos & Ferreira, Fernando, 2010. "Do school entry laws affect educational attainment and labor market outcomes?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 40-54, February.
    7. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ethan G. Lewis, 2006. "Schooling and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test: Evidence from School-Entry Laws," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
    8. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding differences in health behaviors by education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-28, January.
    9. Datar, Ashlesha, 2006. "Does delaying kindergarten entrance give children a head start?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 43-62, February.
    10. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2009. "Do School Lunches Contribute to Childhood Obesity?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
    11. William T. Gormley, Jr. & Ted Gayer, 2005. "Promoting School Readiness in Oklahoma: An Evaluation of Tulsa's Pre-K Program," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
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    Cited by:

    1. Jo, Young, 2014. "What money can buy: Family income and childhood obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Courtemanche, Charles & Tchernis, Rusty & Zhou, Xilin, 2017. "Parental Work Hours and Childhood Obesity: Evidence Using Instrumental Variables Related to Sibling School Eligibility," IZA Discussion Papers 10739, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Zhou, Song & Awokuse, Titus O., "undated". "Urbanization, Nutrition Transition, and Obesity: Evidence from China," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170458, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Georgia S. Papoutsi & Andreas C. Drichoutis & Rodolfo M. Nayga Jr., 2013. "The Causes Of Childhood Obesity: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 743-767, September.
    5. Yang, Juan & SICULAR, Terry & LAI, Desheng, 2014. "The changing determinants of high school attainment in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 551-566.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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