Like father like son, like mother like daughter : parental resources and child height

by Duncan Thomas

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Using household survey data from the United States, Brazil, and Ghana, the author examines the relationship between parental education and child height, an indicator of health and nutritional status. In all three countries, the education of the mother has a bigger effect on her daughter's height. Paternal education, in contrast, has a bigger impact on his son's height. There are, apparently, differences in the allocation of household resources depending on the gender of the child, and these differences vary with the gender of the parent. These results are quite robust and persist even after including controls for unobserved household fixed effects. In Ghana, relative to other women, the education of a woman who is better educated than her husband has a bigger impact on the height of her daughter than that of her son. In Brazil, a woman's nonlabor income has a positive impact on the health of her daughter but not on her son's health. If relative education of parents and nonlabor income are indicators of power in household allocation decision, then these results, along with difference-in-difference of estimated income effects, suggest that gender differences in resource allocations reflect both technological differences in child rearing and differences in the preferences of parents.

Originally published in: The Journal of Human Resources, v. 29, no. 4, Fall 1994, pp. 950-988.

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