Obesity and Skill Attainment in Early Childhood

John Cawley, C. Katharina Spiess

NBER Working Paper No. 13997
Issued in May 2008, Revised in December 2011
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Health Economics, Labor Studies

This paper investigates the association between obesity and skill attainment in early childhood (aged 2-4 years). Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study are used to estimate models of developmental functioning in four critical areas (verbal skills, activities of daily living, motor skills, and social skills) as a function of various measures of weight (including body mass index and obesity) controlling for a rich set of child, parent, and family characteristics. The findings indicate that, among boys, obesity is associated with reduced verbal skills, social skills, motor skills, and activities of daily living. Among girls, obesity is associated with reduced verbal skills. Further investigations show that the correlations exist even for those preschool children who spend no time in day care, which implies that it cannot be due solely to discrimination by teachers, classmates, or day care providers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13997

Published: Cawley, John and C. Katharina Spiess. “Obesity and Skill Attainment in Early Childhood.” Economics and Human Biology, December 2008, 6(3): 388-397. citation courtesy of

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