A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL suggests heavier newborns perform better academically in elementary and middle school than peers with lower birth weights.
Earlier research have it that low birth weight is associated with a variety of adverse outcomes in later childhood.
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The new study was published in the journal American Economic Review, and it is the first to explore the interaction between birth weight, children’s cognitive development and the quality of education they have. Affirming that birth weight was still a more influential factor on academic outcome than school quality. And, being born a heavier weight was found to be advantageous for all children, say the researchers, regardless of race, socioeconomic status and a variety of other factors.
The research was carried out via merged birth and school records for all children born in Florida during the period 1992-2002, which included more than 1.3 million children and nearly 15,000 pairs of twins.
The study finds that babies who weigh more at birth score more highly on tests from third to eighth grade. This finding was confirmed in the participants who were twins; twins with a heavier birth weight go on to have higher average test scores than siblings with lower birth weights.
The results strongly point to the notion that the effects of poor neonatal health on adult outcomes are largely determined early – in early childhood and the first years of elementary school,” the authors write in their conclusion.