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冬天生人命运多舛有新说

时间:2010-07-27 21:52    来源:    作者: 点击:
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    Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don't get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don't live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it.

    But economists Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman at the University of Notre Dame may have uncovered an overlooked explanation for why season of birth matters.

    Their discovery challenges the validity of past research and highlights how seemingly safe assumptions economists make may overlook key causes of curious effects. And they came across it by accident.

    In 2007, Mr. Hungerman was doing research on sibling behavior when he noticed that children in the same families tend to be born at the same time of year. Meanwhile, Ms. Buckles was examining the economic factors that lead to multiple births, and coming across what looked like a relationship between mothers' education levels and when children were born.

    'I was just playing around with the data and getting an unexpected result,' Ms. Buckles recalls of the tendency that less educated mothers were having children in winter.

    The two economists, whose offices are across from one another, were comparing notes one day and realized that they might have stumbled across an answer to the season-of-birth puzzle that previous research had overlooked.

    A key assumption of much of that research is that the backgrounds of children born in the winter are the same as the backgrounds of children born at other times of the year. It must be something that happens to those winter-born children that accounts for their faring poorly.

    In a celebrated 1991 paper, economists Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Alan Krueger of Princeton University argued that season-of-birth differences in how far children go in school is due to how school-attendance laws affect children born at different times of the year. Children born in the winter reach their 16th birthdays earlier in the year than other children, which means they can legally drop out of school sooner in the school year -- which some do, leading to lower education levels in the group.

    There may be validity to all of that research. But if there was any truth to the pattern that Ms. Buckles and Mr. Hungerman discovered, it would question the weightiness of other factors from past research. If winter babies were more likely to come from less-privileged families, it would be natural to expect them to do more poorly in life.

    The two economists examined birth-certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 52 million children born between 1989 and 2001, which represents virtually all of the births in the U.S. during those years. The same pattern kept turning up: The percentage of children born to unwed mothers, teenage mothers and mothers who hadn't completed high school kept peaking in January every year. Over the 13-year period, for example, 13.2% of January births were to teen mothers, compared with 12% in May -- a small but statistically significant difference, they say.

    'Honestly, when we first saw these patterns, we were so stunned we wondered if we made some mistake,' says Mr. Hungerman. 'We weren't even excited, we were like, 'Is that right?''

    He and Ms. Buckles estimate that family background accounts for up to 50% of the differences in education and earnings. That suggests to them that the compulsory-schooling effect Mr. Angrist and Mr. Krueger described could still be there, but that it can't be used to measure how schooling affects later earnings because it still mixes the effects of privilege and education instead of isolating them.

    冬天出生的孩子可谓天赋不敷。多项研究剖明,他们成效很差,上学时刻较短,薪水较低,康健状态较差,寿命也不如其他季节出生的孩子长。研究职员多年来一向在记录这种效应,并试图相识此中启事。

    但美国圣母年夜学(University of Notre Dame)经济学家巴克尔斯(Kasey Buckles)和亨格曼(Daniel Hungerman)年夜概讦发了出生季节关乎命运运限的一个被人们马虎的评释。

    他们的发明对以往研究的靠得住提出了挑衅,并表现出经济学家做出的看上去很靠得住的假定年夜概马虎了一些怪异效应的关键缘故起因。他们有此发明也是出于偶然。

    亨格曼2007年研究兄弟姐妹的举动时,他仔细到一个家庭里的孩子每每都在同样的季节出生。与此同时,巴克尔斯也正在考查导致生养多个孩子的经济身分,他偶然发明母亲的受教诲水安然安祥孩子的出生时刻之间看上去存在接洽相关。

    巴克尔斯回想道,我只是在摆弄数据,却获得了意想不到的功效,那便是教诲程度较低的母亲每每会在冬生成孩子。

    这两位经济学家的办公室恰好相对,某天他们比对各自的研究条记,意识到他们年夜概偶然找出了此前的研究一向忽视的出生季节之谜的谜底。

    此前年夜年夜都这类研究的一个紧张假定是,冬天出生的孩子与其他时辰出生的孩子具备同样的背景。这些冬天出生的孩子必定是产生了什么工作以是才命途多舛。

    麻省理工学院(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)经济学家安格瑞斯特(Joshua Angrist)和普林斯顿年夜学(Princeton University)的克鲁格(Alan Krueger)1991年揭晓了一篇着名的论文,文中以为,出生季节造成孩子上学时刻诟谇差异的缘故起因在于,任务教诲法对差别季节出生的孩子的影响。冬天的孩子早于其他孩子年满16岁,这就意味着他们可以更早地合法分开黉舍,一些孩子恰是这样做的,是以导致这一群体受教诲水平较低。

    这年夜概对悉数此类研究都有效。但要是巴克尔斯和亨格曼所发明的模式是真实的,以往研究所提出的其他身分的紧张性就值得猜疑。要是冬天出生的孩子更年夜概来自弱势家庭,那他们命运运限不如别人也是正常的了。

    上述两位经济学家查询拜访了美国疾病节制与防备中央(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)供应的1989-2001年之间出生的5,200万人的出生证实数据,这根基上是美国在此时期的悉数出生人口。同样的模式一直呈现:未婚妈妈、未成年妈妈和教诲程度在高中以下的妈妈生养的孩子比例在每年1月到达高峰。举例来说,在这13年中,1月份出生的孩子有13.2%母亲只有十几岁,而5月份出生的孩子这一比例为12%,二者相差不年夜,但在统计学上具有紧张意义。

    亨格曼说,诚恳说,当我们第一次发觉这种模式时,我们震动不已,猜疑是不是弄错了。我们乃至一点都不兴奋,而是感受,这样对吗?

    他和巴克尔斯预计,对付个人私家间教诲水驯良收入差异,家庭背景身分所占的比例最多为50%.他们以为,这剖明安格瑞斯特和克鲁格所描写的任务教诲法的影响年夜概仍旧存在,不过不能用以衡量黉舍教诲对厥后的收入有何影响,由于家庭背景和黉舍教诲的影响仍旧混杂,而没有分隔。




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