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Gradients of the Intergenerational Transmission of Health in Developing Countries

This paper investigates the sensitivity of the intergenerational transmission of health to changes in education, income and public services. It uses individual survey data on 2.24 million children born to 600000 mothers during 1970-2000 in 38 developing countries. These data are merged with macroeconomic data by country and birth cohort to create an unprecedentedly large sample of comparable data that exhibits massive variation in maternal and child health as well as in aggregate economic conditions. Child health is indicated by infant survival. Our measure of maternal health is (relative) height, although we also investigate indicators of the health environment in the mother’s childhood as proxies for her health. This is more general and carries the advantage that these indicators are free of endowment effects. We find a substantial positive intergenerational correlation of health that is stronger at both tails of the distribution of mother’s height, and larger for negative deviations from mean height. We show that improving maternal education, raising income and improving the supply or effectiveness of public services in the child’s birth year limits the degree to which child health is tied to family circumstance. These results are robust to mother fixed effects that control for genetic and other endowments common across siblings. The interaction (gradient) effects are most marked for shorter women, consistent with their being constrained in the investments they are able to make in child health. We also find that income and the infectious disease environment in the mother’s birth year exhibit significant intergenerational spillover. There is some previous evidence that adult stature on the one hand and early childhood conditions on the other predict own life expectancy. Our finding that both mother’s height and conditions in her childhood predicts survival or life expectancy for offspring is an important extension of the evidence.

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File URL: http://www.york.ac.uk/media/economics/documents/herc/wp/09_13.pdf
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Paper provided by HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York in its series Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers with number 09/13.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:yor:hectdg:09/13
Contact details of provider: Postal: HEDG/HERC, Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
Phone: (0)1904 323776
Fax: (0)1904 323759
Web page: http://www.york.ac.uk/economics/postgrad/herc/hedg/
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  1. Joshua D. Angrist, 2000. "Estimation of Limited-Dependent Variable Models with Dummy Endogenous Regressors: Simple Strategies for Empirical Practice," NBER Technical Working Papers 0248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bereket Kebede, 2004. "Genetic Endowments, Parental and Child Health in Rural Ethiopia," Development and Comp Systems 0409034, EconWPA.
  3. Arnaud Chevalier, 2004. "Parental Education and Child’s Education - A Natural Experiment," Working Papers 200414, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521827607 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall Far: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 437-449, March.
  6. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083, August.
  7. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus S. Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child Mortality, Income and Adult Height," NBER Working Papers 12966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2006. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 12269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Christina Paxson & Norbert Schady, 2004. "Child Health and Economic Crisis in Peru," Working Papers 242, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  11. Nathan D. Grawe & Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "Economic Interpretations of Intergenerational Correlations," NBER Working Papers 8948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Behrman, Jere R & Taubman, Paul, 1990. "The Intergenerational Correlation between Children's Adult Earnings and Their Parents' Income: Result from the Michigan Panel Survey of Income Dynamics," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 36(2), pages 115-27, June.
  13. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
  14. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1979. "An Equilibrium Theory of the Distribution of Income and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1153-89, December.
  15. Lee, Lung-fei & Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Pitt, Mark M., 1997. "The effects of improved nutrition, sanitation, and water quality on child health in high-mortality populations," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 209-235, March.
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