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CEP discussion paper
Maternal depression and child human capital: a genetic instrumental-variable approach
Andrew E. Clark, Conchita D'Ambrosio, Simone Ghislandi, Anthony Lepinteur and Giorgia Menta February 2021
Paper No' CEPDP1749:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I14; J24

Tags: mendelian randomisation; maternal depression; human capital; instrumental variables; alspac

We here address the causal relationship between maternal depression and child human capital using UK cohort data. We exploit the conditionally-exogenous variation in mothers’ genomes in an instrumental-variable approach, and describe the conditions under which mother’s genetic variants can be used as valid instruments. An additional episode of maternal depression between the child’s birth up to age nine reduces both their cognitive and non-cognitive skills by 20 to 45% of a SD throughout adolescence. Our results are robust to a battery of sensitivity tests addressing, among others, concerns about pleiotropy and the maternal transmission of genes to her child.