Economic Conditions at Birth, Birth Weight, Ability, and the Causal Path to Cardiovascular Mortality

57 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2013

See all articles by Bitte Modin

Bitte Modin

Stockholm University

Gerard J. van den Berg

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Tinbergen Institute

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Date Written: September 2013


We analyze interaction effects of birth weight and the business cycle at birth on individual cardiovascular (CV) mortality later in life. In addition, we examine to what extent these long-run effects run by way of cognitive ability and education and to what extent those mitigate the long-run effects. We use individual records of Swedish birth cohorts from 1915--1929 covering birth weight, family characteristics, school grades, sibling identifiers, and outcomes later in life including the death cause. The birth weight distribution does not vary over the business cycle. The association between birth weight (across the full range) and CV mortality rate later in life is significantly stronger if the individual is born in a recession. This is not explained by differential fertility by social class over the cycle. Ability itself, as measured at age 10, varies with birth weight and the cycle at birth. But the long-run effects of early-life conditions appear to mostly reflect direct biological mechanisms. We do not find evidence of indirect pathways through ability or education, and the long-run effects are not mitigated by education.

Keywords: business cycle, cardiovascular disease, cause of death, cognitive ability, developmental origins, education, fetal programming, genetic determinants, health, life course, life expectancy, longevity, nature and nurture, school grades, siblings, stratified partial likelihood.

JEL Classification: C41, E32, I10, I12, I21, I31, J10, J13, N34

Suggested Citation

Modin, Bitte and van den Berg, Gerard J., Economic Conditions at Birth, Birth Weight, Ability, and the Causal Path to Cardiovascular Mortality (September 2013). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9650. Available at SSRN:

Bitte Modin (Contact Author)

Stockholm University ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, Stockholm SE-106 91

Gerard J. Van den Berg

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
+31 20 444 6132 (Phone)
+32 20 444 6020 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Tinbergen Institute

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

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