Childhood Obesity and Cognitive Achievement

from Health Economics at on June 30, 2015 at 11:38AM

Obese children tend to perform worse academically than normal-weight children. If poor cognitive achievement is truly a consequence of childhood obesity, this relationship has significant policy implications. Therefore, an important question is to what extent can this correlation be explained by other factors that jointly determine obesity and cognitive achievement in childhood? To answer this question, we exploit a rich longitudinal dataset of Australian children, which is linked to national assessments in math and literacy. Using a range of estimators, we find that obesity and body mass index are negatively related to cognitive achievement for boys but not girls. This effect cannot be explained by sociodemographic factors, past cognitive achievement or unobserved time-invariant characteristics and is robust to different measures of adiposity. Given the enormous importance of early human capital development for future well-being and prosperity, this negative effect for boys is concerning and warrants further investigation. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.