NBER | Using Genetic Lotteries within Families to Examine the Causal Impact of Poor Health on Academic Achievement

Jason M. Fletcher, Steven F. Lehrer. Using Genetic Lotteries within Families to Examine the Causal Impact of Poor Health on Academic Achievement. NBER Working Paper No. 15148, July 2009. [Abstract (html)]

While there is a well-established, large positive correlation between mental and physical health and education outcomes, establishing a causal link remains a substantial challenge. Building on findings from the biomedical literature, we exploit specific differences in the genetic code between siblings within the same family to estimate the causal impact of several poor health conditions on academic outcomes. We present evidence of large impacts of poor mental health on academic achievement. Further, our estimates suggest that family fixed effects estimators by themselves cannot fully account for the endogeneity of poor health. Finally, our sensitivity analysis suggests that these differences in specific portions of the genetic code have good statistical properties and that our results are robust to reasonable violations of the exclusion restriction assumption.

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