Venue: The ESRI, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2
Speaker: Prashant Bharadwaj, University of California, San Diego.
This paper investigates the role of initial health endowments on school achievement in early childhood through adolescence. Using birth weight as a proxy for childhood endowments, we investigate this link using twins and siblings fixed effects estimators. We collected birth weight and basic demographic data on all twins and siblings born in Chile between 1992-2000 and match these births to administrative school records between 2002-2008. Twins effects reveal that a 10% increase in birth weight improves performance in math by nearly 0.05 standard deviations in 1st grade.
We exploit repeated observations on twin pairs to show that the effect of birth weight is a persistent effect that does not deteriorate as children advance through grade 8. Siblings fixed effects estimators between grades 1 through 8 show a birth weight effect that declines as children age, but the decline is less among siblings closer together in age than among siblings who are further apart. OLS estimators also show a steady decline in the birth weight effect as children age: birth weight has a large effect in grade 1, but this effect diminishes significantly by grade 8.
Using data from a unique survey that asks both parents and children about parental investments relating to school work, we suggest parental investments as a plausible mechanism for the observed patterns in twins and siblings fixed effects estimators, and OLS. While parental investments are negatively correlated with birth weight, we find evidence of no differential care (by birth weight) within twin pairs; however, within siblings pairs and across families in general, the lower birth weight child appears to receive greater investments. Thus, it appears that parental investments that compensate for lower initial endowments can lessen the impact of birth weight on later life outcomes.
Prashant Bharadwaj is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California, San Diego. His research interests are in development and labor economics, focusing on the interactions between early childhood health, gender and education.
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