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CEE/Education and skills discussion paper

From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes


Lower birth weight babies have worse outcomes, both short-run in terms of one year mortality rates and longer run in terms of educational attainment and earnings. However, recent research has called into question whether birth weight itself is important or whether it simply reflects other hard-to-measure haracteristics. By applying within twin techniques using a unique dataset from Norway, we xamine both short-run and long-run outcomes for the same cohorts. We find that birth weight does matter; very small short-run fixed effect estimates can be misleading because longer-run effects on outcomes such as height, IQ, earnings, and education are significant and similar in magnitude to OLS estimates. Our estimates suggest that eliminating birth weight differences between socio-economic groups would have sizeable effects on the later outcomes of children from poorer families.


Sandra E. Black, Paul Devereux and Kjell Salvanes

March 2006     Paper Number CEEDP0061

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This CEE/Education and skills discussion paper is published under the centre's Education and skills programme, Education and skills programme.