The literature that examines the relationship between child or adolescent Body Mass Index (BMI) and academic attainment generally finds mixed results. This may be due to the use of different data sets, conditioning variables, or methodologies: studies either use an individual fixed effects (FE) approach and/or an instrumental variable (IV) specification. Using one common dataset, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and a common set of controls, this paper compares the different approaches (including using different types of IV’s), discusses their appropriateness, and contrasts their findings. We show that, although the results differ depending on the approach, most estimates cannot be statistically distinguished from OLS, nor from each other. Examining the potential violations of key assumptions of the different approaches and comparing their point estimates, we conclude that fat mass is unlikely to be causally related to academic achievement in adolescence.

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Economics and Human Biology
Department of Applied Economics

von Hinke Kessler Scholder, S.M.L., Davey-Smith, G, Lawlor, D.A, Propper, C, & Windmeijer, F. (2012). The Effect of Fat Mass on Educational Attainment: Examining the Sensitivity of Different Identification Strategies. Economics and Human Biology, 10(4), 405–418. Retrieved from