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Still Unequal at Birth: Birth Weight, Socioeconomic Status and Outcomes at Age 9

  • McGovern, Mark E.

The prevalence of low birth weight is an important aspect of public health which has been linked to increased risk of infant death, increased cost of care, and a range of later life outcomes. Using data from a new Irish cohort study, I document the relationship between birth weight and socioeconomic status. The association of maternal education with birth weight does not appear to be due to the timing of birth or complications during pregnancy, even controlling for a wide range of background characteristics. However, results do suggest intergenerational persistence in the transmission of poor early life conditions. Birth weight predicts a number of outcomes at age 9, including test scores, hospital stays and health. An advantage of the data is that I am able to control for a number of typically unmeasured variables. I determine whether parental investments (as measured by the quality of interaction with the child, parenting style, or school quality) mediate the association between birth weight and later indicators. For test scores, there is evidence of non-linearity, and boys are more adversely affected than girls. I also consider whether there are heterogeneous effects by ability using quantile regression. These results are consistent with a literature which finds that there is a causal relationship between early life conditions and later outcomes.

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Paper provided by Harvard University OpenScholar in its series Working Paper with number 143356.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:qsh:wpaper:143356
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  1. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
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  13. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
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  17. Nancy E. Reichman & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan & Dhaval Dave, 2009. "Infant health production functions: what a difference the data make," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(7), pages 761-782.
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  27. Lorraine Dearden & Luke Sibieta & Kathy Sylva, 2011. "The socio-economic gradient in early child outcomes: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study," IFS Working Papers W11/03, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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