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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.

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File URL: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/34175/1/MPRA_paper_34175.pdf
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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 34175.

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Date of creation: 11 Oct 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34175
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Web page: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de

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  1. 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).
  2. 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, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439, 02.
  3. 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, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772, November.
  4. Janet Currie & Jeffrey Grogger, 2000. "Medicaid Expansions and Welfare Contractions: Offsetting Effects on Prenatal Care and Infant Health?," NBER Working Papers 7667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
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