The Effect of Breastfeeding on Educational Attainment: Evidence from Sibling Data

Daniel I. Rees, University of Colorado, Denver
Joseph J. Sabia, American University

While a few studies have examined the relationship between having been breastfed and academic achievement, none have attempted to control for unobservables by exploiting within-family variation. Using data on sibling pairs drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we estimate the effect of having been breastfed on high school graduation, high school grades, and college attendance. Our results suggest that breastfeeding is associated with substantial increases in high school grades and in the probability of college attendance. Moreover, these associations are robust to adding controls for within-family heterogeneity such as the respondent’s temperament as a child and the quality of the relationship between the respondent and his or her parents. We conclude that improvements in cognitive ability and adolescent health may be important pathways through which breastfeeding affects academic achievement.

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Presented in Poster Session 6