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

Columbia University and National Bureau of Economic ResearchUniversity of California, Berkeley, and National Bureau of Economic Research

We use a unique data set of California births to ask whether intergenerational correlations in health contribute to the perpetuation of economic status. We find that if a mother was low birth weight, her child is significantly more likely to be low birth weight, even when we compare mothers who are sisters. Second, the intergenerational transmission of low birth weight is stronger for mothers in high poverty zip codes. Third, low birth weight affects proxies for later socioeconomic status. Fourth, these effects are stronger for women born in high poverty zip codes.