Prenatal and Infant Health, Family Background and Educational Attainment: Results from the 1966 Northern Finland Birth Cohort Study

Juho Harkonen, Yale University
Hande Kaymakcalan, Yale University
Anja Taanila, University of Oulu

We use data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study to analyze the effects of prenatal and infant health on educational attainment at age 31. Our main contribution to this growing literature comes from the use of several clinically meaningful indicators of health and health behavior. We find that maternal smoking during pregnancy and early problems in neurological development have negative effects. We also find weaker support for negative effects of higher body mass index and anemia during pregnancy. These factors explain only a very small share (less than 5% of the effects of maternal education and parental class on educational attainment. However, maternal smoking explains 16% of the effects of unwed motherhood on educational attainment. This suggests that social differences in maternal smoking behavior can create intergenerational inequalities. We discuss these findings in light of the recent research on childhood conditions and socioeconomic achievement.

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Presented in Session 45: Family Influences on Socioeconomic Differentials in Health and Mortality