Family, Neighborhoods, and Health : Conditions for the Development of Human Capabilities

Sammanfattning: Essay 1: We use data from a large sample of adoptees born in Sweden to decompose the intergenerational persistence in health inequality across generations into one pre-birth component, measured by the biological parents’ longevity, and one post-birth component, measured by the adopting parents’ longevity. We find that most of the health inequality is transmitted via pre-birth factors. In the second part of the paper, we study the background to why children of parents with better educational attainments have better health by decomposing the association into one component attributed to the education of the biological parents and one to the adopting ones. We find that the association can mostly be attributed to the adopting parents, suggesting that parental resources per se, rather than pre-birth (genetic) differences, make up the parental education gradient in child health.Essay 2: There are large differences in health across neighborhoods in Sweden. To try to answer if there is a causal link between neighborhood conditions in childhood and youth health, I apply two different empirical strategies. First, I use population wide data on families living in different areas in Sweden, and estimate the effects of childhood neighborhood on youth health using data on families that move across the country. Since the choice of moving and where to live is endogenous, I exploit the timing of moves and estimate the effect of siblings’ different exposure time to neighborhoods. The second approach utilizes a governmental policy that assigned refugees to their initial neighborhood in Sweden, potentially offering exogenous variation in neighborhoods and allowing me to study the effect of different neighborhoods on youth health. The findings from the two strategies together imply that there are significant neighborhood effects on youth health, but that the effects are contemporaneous and there is no evidence of exposure time effects.Essay 3: Previous research has shown that birth order affects outcomes such as educational achievements, IQ and earnings. The mechanisms behind these effects are still largely unknown. We examine birth order effects on health, and whether health at young age could be a transmission channel for birth order effects observed later in life. Our results show that firstborn children have worse health at birth. This disadvantage is reversed in early age and later-born siblings are more likely to be hospitalized for injuries and avoidable conditions. In adolescence and as young adults, younger siblings are more likely to be of poor mental health and to be admitted to hospital for alcohol induced health conditions. We also test for reverse causality by estimating fertility responses to the health of existing children. Overall our results suggest that birth order effects are due to differential parental investment because parents’ time and resources are limited.Essay 4: We study the short-, medium- and long-term consequences of health at birth using administrative data from Sweden for individuals born in the years 1973-1979. We contribute to a better understanding of the consequences of early life health by contrasting the effects of birth weight with two other measures of neonatal health: the length and the head circumference of the newborn. Our findings suggest that the use of birth weight alone might lead to an underestimation of the importance of early health. Furthermore, we find that there is a persistent effect of neonatal health on a variety of human capital measures in adolescence and adulthood.