Individual Behavior as a Pathway Between Early-Life Shocks and Adult Health

Evidence from Hunger Episodes in Post-War Germany

by Iris Kesternich, Bettina Siflinger, James P. Smith, Joachim K. Winter

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This paper investigates long-run effects of episodes of hunger experienced as a child on health status and behavioral outcomes in later life. It combines self-reported data on hunger experiences from SHARELIFE, a retrospective survey conducted as part of SHARE in Europe in 2009, with administrative data on food supply (caloric rations) in post-war Germany. The data suggest that individual behavior is a pathway between early life shocks and adult health: It finds that those who experienced hunger spend a larger fraction of income on food. Taken together, the results confirm that in addition to the well-documented biological channel from early life circumstances to adult health, there is also a behavioral pathway.

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