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The effects of asymmetric and symmetric fetal growth restriction on human capital development


  • Robinson, Joshua J


This paper explores the causal pathway by which poor fetal health translates into reducing educational attainment and earnings as an adult. Using insights from the medical literature, I decompose low birth weight infants into two distinct subtypes: a symmetric type, which is characterized by cognitive deficits, and an asymmetric type, which exhibits little to no cognitive problems. Using data from a longitudinal survey of newborns, I establish three results: First, there is empirical evidence of brain sparing in the asymmetric subtype, but not in the symmetric subtype. Second, despite differences in cognitive impairment, both subtypes exhibit similar impairment to physical health. And finally, there is evidence that the causes and timing of onset during pregnancy are different for asymmetric and symmetric growth restriction. The results indicate that differentiating between these subtypes may offer new opportunities to identify the underlying casual relationships between health and human capital development, as well as uncovering the "black box" mechanism behind the fetal origins hypothesis. These results also have broad implications for the timing of policy interventions aimed at pregnant women.

Suggested Citation

  • Robinson, Joshua J, 2011. "The effects of asymmetric and symmetric fetal growth restriction on human capital development," MPRA Paper 34175, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34175

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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. Currie, Janet & Grogger, Jeffrey, 2002. "Medicaid expansions and welfare contractions: offsetting effects on prenatal care and infant health?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 313-335, March.
    3. 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.
    4. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
    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).
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    Cited by:

    1. Sara Markowitz & E. Kathleen Adams & Patricia M. Dietz & Viji Kannan & Van T. Tong, 2013. "Tobacco Control Policies, Birth Outcomes, and Maternal Human Capital," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(2), pages 130-160.

    More about this item


    Health; Fetal Growth Restriction; Human Capital; Education;

    JEL classification:

    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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