Date: 2012-08-28
Time: 13.30
Place: CHESS library, Sveaplan, 5th floor

Abstract: We analyze the 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 (scores), sibling identifiers, and outcomes later in life including the death cause. We find that the birth weight distribution does not vary over the business cycle. The association between birth weight 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 over the cycle by social class or by a causal pathway through cognitive ability, and the long-run effects are not mitigated by education. Ability itself, as measured by school grades, does vary with birth weight, the cycle at birth, and their interaction. But the long-run effects of early-life conditions appear to mostly reflect direct biological mechanisms rather than indirect pathways or intermediate individual decisions.


Gerard van den Berg is Alexander von Humboldt Professor in Econometrics and Empirical Economics at the University of Mannheim. He has previously worked at the Free University Amsterdam, Princeton University, Northwestern University, New York University, Stockholm School of Economics, Tilburg University, Groningen University, and INSEE-CREST. He was Joint Managing Editor of The Economic Journal and is currently co-editor of the Journal of Econometrics.