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Early-life environment, eight and BMI of young adult males in Italy

  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Medicine


This paper studies the relationship between the two main dimensions of early-life environment, namely disease burden (measured by infant mortality) and economic conditions (measured by income or consumption per capita), and height and body-mass index (BMI) of recent cohorts of young adult males in Italy. By combining high-quality micro-level data on height and weight with regional- and province-level information, we are able to link individual height and BMI at age 18 to regional and provincial averages of environmental variables in the year of birth. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that, in rich low-mortality setting, the scarring effects of childhood disease dominate selection. We also show that both income and disease matter, and their relative importance differs depending on the outcome considered and the available background information. In particular, we find that income matters more than disease for height, while the opposite is true for BMI. Finally, using detailed province-level information, we show that income per capita is a proxy for a variety of environmental indicators that are highly correlated with economic conditions.

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