Seasons matter

The Wall Street Journal reports on an important paper:

Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don’t get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don’t live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it. But economists Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman at the University of Notre Dame may have uncovered an overlooked explanation for why season of birth matters.

This is the paper and abstract:

Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers
Kasey Buckles and Daniel M. Hungerman (University of Notre Dame).
NBER Working Paper No. 14573 / December 2008

Research has found that season of birth is associated with later health and professional outcomes; what drives this association remains unclear. In this paper we consider a new explanation: that children born at different times in the year are conceived by women with different socioeconomic characteristics. We document large seasonal changes in the characteristics of women giving birth throughout the year in the United States. Children born in the winter are disproportionally born to women who are more likely to be teenagers and less likely to be married or have a high school degree.

We show that controls for family background characteristics can explain up to half of the relationship between season of birth and adult outcomes. We then discuss the implications of this result for using season of birth as an instrumental variable; our findings suggest that, though popular, season-of-birth instruments may produce inconsistent estimates. Finally, we find that some of the seasonality in maternal characteristics is due to summer weather differentially affecting fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

And this is what the evidence looks like:

SeasonalBirths

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