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Breastfeeding and Child Disability: A Comparison of Siblings from the United States

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  • George Wehby

Abstract

Little is known about whether breastfeeding may prevent disabilities throughout childhood. We evaluate the effects of breastfeeding on child disability using data from the National Survey of Family Growth merged to the National Health Interview Survey for a large nationally representative sample of children aged 1 to 18 years from the U.S. including over 3,000 siblings who are discordant on breastfeeding status/duration. We focus on a mother fixed effect model that compares siblings in order to account for family-level unobservable confounders and employ multiple specifications including a dynamic model that accounts for disability status of the prior child. Breastfeeding the child for a longer duration is associated with a lower risk of child disability, by about 0.2 percentage-points per month of breastfeeding. This effect is only observed on the intensive margin among breastfed children, as any breastfeeding has no effect on the extensive margin. We conclude that very short breastfeeding durations are unlikely to have an effect on reducing disability risk.

Suggested Citation

  • George Wehby, 2014. "Breastfeeding and Child Disability: A Comparison of Siblings from the United States," NBER Working Papers 19940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19940
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Clive R. Belfield & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2012. "The Benefits of Breast Feeding across the Early Years of Childhood," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(3), pages 251-277.
    2. George L. Wehby & Kaitlin Prater & Ann Marie McCarthy & Eduardo E. Castilla & Jeffrey C. Murray, 2011. "The Impact of Maternal Smoking during Pregnancy on Early Child Neurodevelopment," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(2), pages 207-254.
    3. Kidd, Michael P. & Sloane, Peter J. & Ferko, Ivan, 2000. "Disability and the labour market: an analysis of British males," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(6), pages 961-981, November.
    4. Borra, Cristina & Iacovou, Maria & Sevilla, Almudena, 2012. "The effect of breastfeeding on children's cognitive and noncognitive development," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 496-515.
    5. Reilly, Siobhan & Evenhouse, Eirik, 2005. "Improved estimates of the benefits of breastfeeding using sibling comparisons to reduce selection bias," MPRA Paper 13434, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Daniel I. Rees & Joseph J. Sabia, 2009. "The Effect of Breast Feeding on Educational Attainment: Evidence from Sibling Data," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 43-72.
    7. McGee, Andrew, 2011. "Skills, standards, and disabilities: How youth with learning disabilities fare in high school and beyond," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 109-129, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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