Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 969–989

Parental investment responses to a low birth weight outcome: who compensates and who reinforces?

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00148-016-0590-3

Cite this article as:
Restrepo, B.J. J Popul Econ (2016) 29: 969. doi:10.1007/s00148-016-0590-3


This study analyzes how parental investment responds to a low birth weight (LBW) outcome and finds important differences in investment responses by maternal education. High school dropouts reinforce a LBW outcome by providing less investment in the human capital of their LBW children relative to their normal birth weight children whereas higher educated mothers compensate by investing more in their LBW children. In addition, an increase in the number of LBW siblings present in the home raises investment in a child, which is consistent with reinforcement, but this positive effect tends to be concentrated among high school dropouts. These results suggest that studies analyzing the effects of LBW on child outcomes that do not account for heterogeneity in investment responses to a LBW outcome by maternal education may overestimate effects of LBW on child outcomes for those born to low-educated mothers and underestimate such effects for those born to high-educated mothers.


Parental investment Human capital Low birth weight Education Income 

JEL Classification

D13 I14 I24 J13 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of the CommissionerUS Food and Drug AdministrationSilver SpringUSA

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