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Research Showcase - Dan Rees, Economics

Faculty explore relevant issues through research

What do breastfeeding and migraine headaches have in common? According to Daniel Rees, professor of economics, both have an effect on academic performance. As a health and educational economist, Rees has recently focused his research on how these two health issues impact one’s educational attainment.

Breastfeeding leads to better academic achievement in high school and an increased likelihood of attending college, according to a study by Rees and his coauthor Sabia published on June 11, 2009 in the Journal of Human Capital. Specifically, it looked at the academic achievement of siblings—one of whom was breastfed as an infant and one of whom was not—and discovered that an additional month of breastfeeding was associated with an increase in high school GPA of 0.019 points and an increase in the probability of college attendance of 0.014.

In another recent study, Rees and Sabia found that suffering from migraine headaches as an adolescent leads to lower high school grades and decreases the likelihood of graduating high school and of attending college. This study, which was released in July 2009, again examined siblings raised in the same household with different migraine experiences.

"By focusing on differences between siblings, we can rule out the possibility that family- level factors such as socioeconomic status are driving the relationship," says Rees.