Biology as Destiny? Short and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight

40 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2005 Last revised: 11 Aug 2010

See all articles by Janet Currie

Janet Currie

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Princeton University

Enrico Moretti

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: August 2005

Abstract

Little is known about the mechanisms underlying the transfer of economic status between generations. This paper addresses the question of whether inter-generational correlations in health contribute to the perpetuation of economic status. We examine inter-generational correlations in birth weight, a key indicator of the health of newborns that we link to future educational attainment and earnings using a unique data set based on California births from 1960s to the present. We use names and birth dates to link the records of mothers and children. We also identify mothers who are siblings. We show that there is a strong intergenerational correlation in the birth weight of mothers and children, but that a measure of household income at the time of the mother's birth is also predictive of low birth weight and that there is an interaction between maternal low birth weight and poverty in the production of low birth weight. Together these findings suggest that intergenerational correlations in health could play a role in the intergenerational transmission of income. Parent's income affects child health, and health at birth affects future income.

Suggested Citation

Currie, Janet and Moretti, Enrico, Biology as Destiny? Short and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight (August 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11567. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=788432

Janet Currie (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
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Princeton University ( email )

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6092587393 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~jcurrie

Enrico Moretti

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

HOME PAGE: http://emlab.berkeley.edu/~moretti/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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