Health, Education and Income in the United States, 1820-2000

57 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2013

See all articles by Hoyt Bleakley

Hoyt Bleakley

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Dora L. Costa

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Adriana Lleras-Muney

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 2013

Abstract

We document the correlations between early childhood health (as proxied by height) and educational attainment and investigate the labor market and wealth returns to height for United States cohorts born between 1820 and 1990. The nineteenth century was characterized by low investments in height and education, a small correlation between height and education, and positive but small returns for both height and education. The relationship between height and education was stronger in the twentieth century and stronger in the first part of the twentieth century than later on (when both investments in education and height stalled), but never as strong as in developing countries. The labor market and wealth returns to height and education also were higher in the twentieth compared to the nineteenth century. We relate our findings to the theory of human capital formation and speculate that the greater importance of physical labor in the nineteenth century economy, which raised the opportunity cost of schooling, may have depressed the height-education relationship relative to the twentieth century. Our findings are consistent with an increasing importance of cognitive abilities acquired in early childhood.

Suggested Citation

Bleakley, Hoyt and Costa, Dora L. and Lleras-Muney, Adriana, Health, Education and Income in the United States, 1820-2000 (June 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19162, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2287022

Hoyt Bleakley (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Dora L. Costa

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 951477
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Adriana Lleras-Muney

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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