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Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings and Longitudinal Data

  • Janet Currie
  • Enrico Moretti

We estimate the effect of maternal education on birth outcomes using data from the Vital Statistics Natality files for 1970 to 1999. We also assess the importance of four potential channels through which maternal education may improve birth outcomes: use of prenatal care, smoking behavior, marriage, and fertility. In an effort to account for unobserved characteristics of women that could induce spurious correlation, we pursue two distinct empirical strategies. First, we construct panel data by linking women in different years of the Vital Statistics records and examine the effects of changes in education on changes in birth outcomes. Second, we have compiled a new data set on openings of two and four year colleges between 1940 and 1990. We use data about the availability of colleges in the woman's county in her 17th year as an instrument for maternal education Our findings using the two approaches are similar. Higher maternal education improves infant health, as measured by birthweight and gestational age. It also increases the probability that a new mother is married, reduces parity, increases use of prenatal care, and reduces smoking, suggesting that these are important pathways for the ultimate effect on health.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9360.

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Date of creation: Dec 2002
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Publication status: published as Currie, Janet and Enrico Moretti. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings." Quarterly Journal of Economics VCXVIII, 4 (November 2003): 1495-1532.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9360
Note: CH LS ED
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  1. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2001. "The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the U. S," Working Papers 272, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  2. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2001. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," NBER Working Papers 8605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kane, Thomas J & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Labor-Market Returns to Two- and Four-Year College," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 600-614, June.
  4. Finis Welch, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," UCLA Economics Working Papers 146, UCLA Department of Economics.
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  6. Blau, Francine D & Grossberg, Adam J, 1992. "Maternal Labor Supply and Children's Cognitive Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 474-81, August.
  7. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  8. Edward Lazear, 1983. "Intergenerational Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 16(2), pages 212-28, May.
  9. Mark R. Rosenzweig & T. Paul Schultz, 1988. "The Stability of Household Production Technology: A Replication," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(4), pages 535-549.
  10. Sonalde Desai & Soumya Alva, 1998. "Maternal education and child health: Is there a strong causal relationship?," Demography, Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 35(1), pages 71-81, February.
  11. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages S65-97, October.
  12. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Shaping of Higher Education: The Formative Years in the United States, 1890 to 1940," NBER Working Papers 6537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Mark R. Rosenzweig & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1994. "Are There Increasing Returns to the Intergenerational Production of Human Capital? Maternal Schooling and Child Intellectual Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 670-693.
  14. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746.
  15. Duncan Thomas & John Strauss & Maria-Helena Henriques, 1991. "How Does Mother's Education Affect Child Height?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 183-211.
  16. David Card, 2000. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," NBER Working Papers 7769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. repec:pri:cheawb:llerasmuney1.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Democratization or Diversion? The Effect of Community Colleges on Educational Attainment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 217-24, April.
  19. Matthew J. Neidell, 2000. "Early Parental Time Investments In Children's Human Capital Development: Effects Of Time In The First Year On Cognitive And Non-Cognitive Outcomes," UCLA Economics Working Papers 806, UCLA Department of Economics.
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