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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. van den Berg, G. J & Lundborg P & Nystedt P & Rooth D, 2009. "Critical Periods During Childhood and Adolescence: A Study of Adult Height Among Immigrant Siblings," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 09/20, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  2. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
  3. Frölich, Markus, 2002. "Nonparametric IV Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects with Covariates," IZA Discussion Papers 588, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S143-62, August.
  5. Del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2008. "Intrafamily resource allocations: a dynamic model of birth weight," ISER Working Paper Series 2008-27, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  6. Atsushi Inoue & Gary Solon, 2005. "Two-Sample Instrumental Variables Estimators," NBER Technical Working Papers 0311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 1984. "Heterogeneity, Intrafamily Distribution and Child Health," Bulletins 8429, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
  8. Akbulut-Yuksel, Mevlude, 2009. "Children of War: The Long-Run Effects of Large-Scale Physical Destruction and Warfare on Children," IZA Discussion Papers 4407, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2011. "Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance during Pregnancy," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 56-85, October.
  10. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
  11. Ashlesha Datar & M. Kilburn & David Loughran, 2010. "Endowments and parental investments in infancy and early childhood," Demography, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 145-162, February.
  12. Sven Neelsen & Thomas Stratmann, 2010. "Effects of Prenatal and Early Life Malnutrition: Evidence from the Greek Famine," CESifo Working Paper Series 2994, CESifo Group Munich.
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