Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies,
Uppsala University, Department of Economics

No 2016:3: Parental Influences on Health and Longevity: Lessons from a Large Sample of Adoptees

Mikael Lindahl (), Evelina Lundberg (), Mårten Palme () and Emilia Simeonova ()
Additional contact information
Mikael Lindahl: Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Evelina Lundberg: Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Mårten Palme: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Emilia Simeonova: Johns Hopkins University, Postal: 100 International Drive, Baltimore, MD, USA and NBER

Abstract: To what extent is the length of our lives determined by pre-birth factors? And to what extent is it affected by parental resources during our upbringing that can be influenced by public policy? We study the formation of adult health and mortality using data on about 21,000 adoptees born between 1940 and 1967. The data include detailed information on both biological and adopting parents. We find that the health of the biological parents affects the health of their adopted children. Thus, we confirm that genes and conditions in utero are important intergenerational transmission channels for long-term health. However, we also find strong evidence that the educational attainment of the adopting mother has a significant impact on the health of her adoptive children, suggesting that family environment and resources in the post-birth years have long-term consequences for children’s health.

Keywords: health inequality; mortality; pre-versus post-birth decomposition

JEL-codes: I10; I14; I24

60 pages, January 18, 2016

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