Family size effects on childhood obesity: Evidence on the quantity-quality trade-off using the NLSY

Econ Hum Biol. 2018 May;29:42-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Feb 9.


In this study, we use matched mother-child data from the National Longitudinal Surveys to study the effects of family size on child health. Focusing on excess body weight indicators as children's health outcome of interest, we examine the effects of exogenous variations in family size generated by twin births and parental preference for mixed sex composition of their children. We find no significant empirical support in favor of the quantity-quality trade-off theory in instrumental variable regression analysis. This result is further substantiated when we make use of the panel aspects of the data to study child health outcomes of arrival of younger siblings at later parities. Specifically, when we employ child fixed effects analysis, results suggest that birth of a younger sibling is related to a decline in the likelihood of being overweight by 4 percentage points and a drop in the probability of illness by approximately 5 percentage points.

Keywords: Children; Family size; Fixed effects; Instrumental variables; Obesity; Overweight.

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Parents
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Siblings