Parental Investments and Child Endowments: Do Parents Compensate or Reinforce Birth Weight Differences among Siblings?

Amy Hsin, University of California, Los Angeles

Studies identify both short and long-term consequences of being born low birth weight (LBW). But are the processes that link early childhood conditions to adult outcomes biological or sociological in nature? Do parents compensate or reinforce birth endowment differences among their offspring? I use birth weight and time diary data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics-Child Development Supplement to analyze 538 sibling pairs. Preliminary findings suggest that mothers spend more time with LBW children during early childhood, a time when the health risks associated with being born low birth weight are the greatest. By the time children enter school and achievement based differences become either more noticeable or relevant, investment patterns reverse; normal weight children receive more maternal time than their LBW siblings. These findings suggest that the adult disadvantages faced by LBW children are not simply due to biological destiny but also to family dynamics that both compensate and reinforce early health conditions.

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Presented in Session 92: Family Context and Health Outcomes for Parents and Children