THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHILD HEALTH, DEVELOPMENTAL GAPS, AND PARENTAL EDUCATION: EVIDENCE FROM ADMINISTRATIVE DATA

Authors


  • The editor in charge of this paper was Stefano DellaVigna.

  • Acknowledgments: We are greatly obliged to the department of health services of the city of Osnabrueck and in particular to Inge Rohling, MD, for making the data available and for patiently answering endless questions about the data and details of school entrance examinations. We thank Padmaja Ayyagari, Anders Björklund, Axel Börsch-Supan, Katie Carman, Jon Christianson, Janet Currie, Ernst Fehr, James Heckman, Hendrik Jürges, Steven Lehrer, Keren Ladin, Petter Lundborg, Jürgen Maurer, Andrew Oswald, Matthias Parey, Steffen Reinhold, Frank Sloan, Arthur van Soest, Rainer Winkelmann, participants of the conference of the American Society of Health Economists 2008 at Duke University and of the annual meeting of the German Economic Association 2009 at Magdeburg University, as well as seminar participants at the Universities of Aachen, Freiburg, Groningen, Heidelberg, Innsbruck, Maastricht, Mainz, Mannheim, Nuremberg-Erlangen, Tilburg, Yale, and Zurich for many valuable suggestions. We also thank Michael Ingenhaag and Dörte Heger for excellent research assistance.

  • E-mail: m.salm@uvt.nl (Salm); mail@daniel-schunk.de (Schunk)

Abstract

We use administrative German data to examine the role of physical and mental health conditions in explaining developmental gaps between children whose parents have different educational levels. Specifically, we employ sibling fixed effect models to estimate the effect of a comprehensive list of childhood health conditions—diagnosed by government physicians—on the cognitive and verbal ability of pre-school children. We also apply decomposition methods to examine the extent to which gaps in child development can be attributed to child health conditions. While most physical health conditions have small and insignificant effects, mental health conditions, in particular hyperactivity, have a large and significant effect on development. Mental health conditions account for 14%–36% of the gap in cognitive ability and for 23%–24% of that in verbal ability. Thus, policies aimed at reducing disparities in child development and socioeconomic inequalities later in life should focus more on the early diagnosis and effective treatment of mental health conditions.

Ancillary