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Still unequal at birth - birth weight, socioeconomic status and outcomes at age 9

  • Mark McGovern

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. A strong association with maternal education 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. A comparison with the UK Millennium Cohort Study reveals similar social gradients in both countries. 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. Boys are more adversely affected than girls, and I find that the effects of low birth weight (

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/3431
File Function: First version, 2011
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Paper provided by School of Economics, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201125.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201125
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  1. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," Open Access publications 10197/316, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
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  7. Liam Delaney & Mark McGovern & James P. Smith, 2009. "From Angela’s Ashes to the Celtic Tiger : early life conditions and adult health in Ireland," Working Papers 200929, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
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  9. 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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  14. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet, 2011. "Human Capital Development before Age Five," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
  15. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532.
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  17. Bharadwaj, Prashant & Eberhard, Juan & Neilson, Christopher, 2010. "Do Initial Endowments Matter Only Initially? The Persistent Effect of Birth Weight on School Achievement," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt4536p0hd, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  18. Arnaud Chevalier & Vincent O'Sullivan, 2007. "Mother's education and birth weight," Working Papers 200724, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
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  27. 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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