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Keywords:

  • height;
  • intergenerational transfers;
  • health;
  • children;
  • epigenetic;
  • Vietnam

Abstract

A growing body of work suggests that health may be transferred across generations. The aim of this paper is to examine the mechanisms that might account for observed intergenerational associations in health outcomes. Using data from Vietnam, this study analyzes intergenerational correlations in height, a measure of long-run health status, between parents and their children. Insights from biology and economics are used to motivate several strategies that collectively provide insight on the role and importance of different mechanisms. The results illustrate strong intergenerational associations in height, which remain stable with the inclusion of controls for parent and household characteristics. Maternal height is more strongly associated with the heights of boys than girls, while the associations with paternal height are similar across genders. The use of conditions faced by parents early in life as instruments for their height yields significantly larger estimates of the mother–child height association relative to OLS, while the estimated father–child associations move to zero. These results, in conjunction with those from several other tests, illustrate that non-genetic factors are important in determining parent–child associations in height, and more speculatively, that epigenetic mechanisms may play an important role. These findings illustrate the value of investments in early childhood, as these may confer intergenerational benefits. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.