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Is Being in School Better? The Impact of School on Children’s BMI When Starting Is Endogenous (WP-12-05)

Patricia Anderson, Kristin Butcher, Elizabeth Cascio, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

In this working paper, the authors investigate the impact of attending school on body weight and obesity. They use school starting age cutoff dates to compare weight outcomes for children similar in age with different years of school exposure. As is the case with academic outcomes, school exposure is related to unobserved determinants of weight outcomes because some families choose to have their child start school late (or early). If one does not account for this endogeneity, it appears that an additional year of school exposure results in a greater BMI and a higher probability of being overweight or obese. When actual exposure is instrumented with expected exposure based on school starting dates and birthday, the significant positive effects disappear, and most point estimates become negative and insignificant. However, for children not eating the school lunch, there is a significant negative effect on the probability of being overweight.

This working paper has been published as:
Anderson, P., K. Butcher, E. Cascio, and D.W. Schanzenbach. 2011. Is being in school better? The impact of school on children's BMI when starting age is endogenous. Journal of Health Economics 30(5): 977-86.

Patricia Anderson, Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College

Kristin Butcher, Professor of Economics, Wellesley College

Elizabeth Cascio, Assistant Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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