Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers

Dan Hungerman, University of Notre Dame
Kasey Buckles, University of Notre Dame

Research has shown that the season of a child’s birth is associated with later outcomes involving health, educational attainment, earnings and mortality. Our paper considers an overlooked explanation for this phenomenon: that children born throughout the year are conceived by women with different socioeconomic characteristics. Using vital statistics and census data, we document large changes in the characteristics of the average woman giving birth throughout the year. We then use data from multiple decennial censuses to show that variation in maternal characteristics can explain most of the observed effect of birth quarter on later outcomes such as wages and educational attainment. We conclude by briefly discussing theories for why the fertility behavior of women throughout the year may depend upon socioeconomic status.

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Presented in Session 155: Social Status and Reproduction: Interrelationships between Poverty, Wealth and Fertility