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- PublicationDon't Stress: Early Life Conditions, Hypertension, and Selection into Associated Risk Factors(University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2012-10)Early life conditions have been linked to various domains of later life health, including cardiovascular outcomes. Using life history data from 13 European countries, I find that childhood socioeconomic status and measures of childhood health are related to hypertension, although there is cross country heterogeneity in these effects. I account for potential omitted variable bias by using aggregate measures of public health at birth, which are plausibly exogenous to the individual. I find that infant mortality at birth is positively related to hypertension, even allowing for cohort effects, and controlling for GDP at birth. Results imply that improvements in early life conditions in Europe led to an overall reduction in the hypertension rate of between 3 and 6 percentage points, for the cohort born 1931-1935, relative to the cohort born 1956-1960. An alternative strand of literature in epidemiology links contemporaneous factors, such as work place environment, to heart disease. However, theories of life cycle decision making suggest that individuals may be selected into these adverse environments and behaviours on the basis of their initial conditions. I demonstrate a strong association between early environment and these risk factors. Results imply that these should therefore be viewed as outcomes which lie on the causal pathway between initial conditions and later outcomes, in which case ignoring this selection will misattribute at least part of the effects of early life environment to current circumstance. This has important policy implications for targeting hypertension as it indicates that emphasis should also be placed on combatting disadvantage across the life course, rather than just factors which only manifest themselves in adulthood.
- PublicationStill unequal at birth - birth weight, socioeconomic status and outcomes at age 9(University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2011-11)Birth weight is an important aspect of public health which has been linked to increased risk of infant death, increased cost of care, and a range of later life outcomes. Using data from a new Irish cohort study, I document the relationship between birth weight and socioeconomic status. A strong association with maternal education does not appear to be due to the timing of birth or complications during pregnancy, even controlling for a wide range of background characteristics. However, results do suggest intergenerational persistence in the transmission of poor early life conditions. A comparison with the UK Millennium Cohort Study reveals similar social gradients in both countries. Birth weight predicts a number of outcomes at age 9, including test scores, hospital stays and health. An advantage of the data is that I am able to control for a number of typically unmeasured variables. I determine whether parental investments as measured by the quality of interaction with the child, parenting style, or school quality mediate the association between birth weight and later indicators. For test scores, there is evidence of non-linearity. Boys are more adversely affected than girls, and I find that the effects of low birth weight (<2,500g) are particularly strong. I also consider whether there are heterogeneous effects by ability using quantile regression. These results are consistent with a literature which finds that there is a causal relationship between early life conditions and later outcomes.
- PublicationHeterogeneity in early life investments: a longitudinal analysis of children's time use(University College Dublin. Geary Institute, 2017-01)
;Early life investments in children promote skills and capabilities, and subsequently influence a variety of health, social, and economic outcomes in later life. In this paper, we examine heterogeneity in children’s time use using diary data from two waves of a nationally representative longitudinal cohort study. Children from disadvantaged households spend significantly less time reading and engaging in sport than their counterparts, and more time in unstructured activities and using media. Though gaps are relatively small at age 9, they widen considerably over time. At age 13, girls in households with low maternal education spend on average 6 minutes per day reading (95% CI 3-10) and 12 minutes per day in sport (95% CI 8-16), while girls in households with high maternal education spend 14 minutes reading (95% CI 11-17) and 27 minutes in sport (95% CI 23-31). Similar differences were found for boys. Using a decomposition analysis, we find that resources, preferences, initial endowments, and differential costs all play a role in explaining time use concentration across households, indicating that disadvantaged families may be constrained in how they choose their preferred time use options. Given the important role of extra-curricular activities in promoting cognitive and non-cognitive skill development, the systematic differences in time use we document in this paper are likely to contribute to cumulative disadvantage and widening skill gaps over adolescence and into adulthood. 226