Does School Education Reduce Childhood Obesity?

Ning Zhang, Cornell University

This paper exploits state-wide first-grade entry policies to identify the impact of school education on youth obesity. Using the restricted-access data from NLSY79, NLSY97, and Children to NLSY79 Women, I compare children who are born just before the school entrance date and may start school at age of six to those who are born just after. Children born closely prior and post the cutoff dates are nearly identical in terms of all other factors that may affect their body weight and height, suggesting that differences in their probability of being overweight may be causally attributed to differences in the number of school years. I also assess the importance of three channels through which education may affect youth obesity: health knowledge, dietary habits, and physical activities. No theory favors a particular channel, and results demonstrate that their impacts vary with age and grade.

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Presented in Poster Session 5