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Instrumental variable estimation of the causal effect of hunger early in life on health later in life

  • van den Berg, Gerard J.
  • Pinger, Pia R.
  • Schoch, Johannes

Numerous studies have evaluated the effect of nutrition early in life on health much later in life by comparing individuals born during a famine to others. Nutritional intake is typically unobserved and endogenous, whereas famines arguably provide exogenous variation in the provision of nutrition. However, living through a famine early in life does not necessarily imply a lack of nutrition during that age interval, and vice versa, and in this sense the observed difference at most provides a qualitative assessment of the average causal effect of a nutritional shortage, which is the parameter of interest. In this paper we estimate this average causal effect on health outcomes later in life, by applying instrumental variable estimation, using data with self-reported periods of hunger earlier in life, with famines as instruments. The data contain samples from European countries and include birth cohorts exposed to various famines in the 20th century. We use two-sample IV estimation to deal with imperfect recollection of conditions at very early stages of life. The estimated average causal effects often exceed famine effects by a factor three.

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Paper provided by ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research in its series ZEW Discussion Papers with number 12-019.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:12019
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  1. Chen, Yuyu & Zhou, Li-An, 2007. "The long-term health and economic consequences of the 1959-1961 famine in China," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 659-681, July.
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  5. Gerard J. van den Berg & Pia R. Pinger & Johannes Schoch, 2014. "Instrumental Variable Estimation of the Causal Effect of Hunger Early in Life on Health Later in Life," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 710, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  6. Scholte, Robert & van den Berg, Gerard J. & Lindeboom, Maarten, 2012. "Long-Run Effects of Gestation During the Dutch Hunger Winter Famine on Labor Market and Hospitalization Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 6307, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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