The Ways Weight Matters: The Intergenerational Transmission of Weight, Health and Human Capital Disadvantage

Heide Jackson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States with implications for many aspects of child development; obesity negatively affects a child’s health, cognitive abilities, and non-cognitive traits. While an emerging literature has shown how obesity may affect a child’s skill acquisition and health, this paper will contribute to this field by showing that maternal obesity has direct consequences for child obesity, health, cognitive capacity, and non-cognitive traits as well as indirect, but nonetheless important, implications for a child’s educational attainment. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Children (1979), preliminary analysis suggests an important effect of maternal obesity on child characteristics. More surprisingly, analysis suggests that childhood obesity does not have a similar influence after controlling for maternal weight status. Results suggest an important intergenerational transfer of obesity which negatively affects child development.

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Presented in Session 72: New Approaches to Understanding Child Health: A Closer Look at the Family