You Are What Your Parents Expect: Height and Local Reference Points

PIER Working Paper No. 18-007

Wang, Fan, Esteban Puentes, Jere R. Behrman, and Flávio Cunha. 2022. “You Are What Your Parents Expect: Height and Local Reference Points.” Journal of Econometrics, April. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeconom.2021.09.020

60 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2018 Last revised: 4 Apr 2022

See all articles by Fan Wang

Fan Wang

University of Houston - Department of Economics

Esteban Puentes

University of Chile - Diagonal Paraguay

Jere Behrman

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics

Flavio Cunha

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 1, 2022

Abstract

Recent estimates are that about 150 million children under five years of age are stunted, with substantial negative consequences for their schooling, cognitive skills, health, and economic productivity. Therefore, understanding what determines such growth retardation is significant for designing public policies that aim to address this issue. We build a model for nutritional choices and health with reference-dependent preferences. Parents care about the health of their children relative to some reference population. In our empirical model, we use height as the health outcome that parents target. Reference height is an equilibrium object determined by earlier cohorts’ parents’ nutritional choices in the same village. We explore the exogenous variation in reference height produced by a protein-supplementation experiment in Guatemala to estimate our model’s parameters. We use our model to decompose the impact of the protein intervention on height into price and reference-point effects. We find that the changes in reference points account for 65% of the height difference between two-year-old children in experimental and control villages in the sixth annual cohort born after the initiation of the intervention.

Keywords: Early Childhood, Height, Reference Point, Nutrition, Anthropometrics

JEL Classification: I15, D8, D9, O15

Suggested Citation

Wang, Fan and Puentes, Esteban and Behrman, Jere R. and Cunha, Flavio, You Are What Your Parents Expect: Height and Local Reference Points (April 1, 2022). PIER Working Paper No. 18-007, Wang, Fan, Esteban Puentes, Jere R. Behrman, and Flávio Cunha. 2022. “You Are What Your Parents Expect: Height and Local Reference Points.” Journal of Econometrics, April. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeconom.2021.09.020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3167023 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3167023

Fan Wang (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Economics ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-5882
United States

HOME PAGE: http://fanwangecon.github.io

Esteban Puentes

University of Chile - Diagonal Paraguay

257 OF 1206
Santiago
Chile

Jere R. Behrman

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science
133 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6297
United States
215-898-7704 (Phone)
215-573-2057 (Fax)

Flavio Cunha

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

3718 Locust Walk
Room 527
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-5652 (Phone)

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