Baby girl walking.

LRF Center for Economics of Breastfeeding

About Us

The LRF Center for Economics of Breastfeeding is a research center at the University of Zurich. The primary aim of the Center is to undertake high-quality research within economics of child and youth development with a focus on breastfeeding. The main goal of the research is to inform policy-makers and public health organizations in designing policies and programs to improve child and youth development.

The Center is run by world-class researchers who design and conduct empirical research on the social and economic determinants of child and youth development. We conduct rigorous empirical analyses based on existing data, leveraging existing policy changes and other quasi-experimental settings, to provide causal evidence. We also collect our own data to answer our research questions based on randomized control trials.

Research Focus

The Center is dedicated to high-quality research that will ultimately improve the lives of children and young adults. In particular, an important focus of the Center is to improve our knowledge of the causes and consequences of breastfeeding.

Early childhood conditions have long-lasting consequences for later life economic and social wellbeing. Breastfeeding might be one key ingredient in the intergenerational transmission of human capital and thereby economic inequality, as we see a strong socio-economic gradient in breastfeeding rates across developed countries with more economically advantaged mothers being more likely to breastfeed. A major public health focus – resting on correlational evidence– concerns how to improve breastfeeding rates globally. Yet, causal evidence of the effects of breastfeeding is still in its infancy: What are the consequences of breastfeeding on children’s health, cognitive, emotional, and social development? How does breastfeeding promotion affect the child’s family environment? Why do not all mothers breastfeed? What could be done to improve breastfeeding rates?

Other important questions that we focus on in the Center concern how the childhood family and school environment affect human capital development, such as educational attainment, choice of field of study and occupation, economic preferences, and earnings.

Our Research

What is the Causal Effect of Breastfeeding on Child Development? An Economic Evaluation of the PROBIT Study (draft coming soon)

Until now, the largest and most famous randomized control trial regarding breastfeeding was done in the mid 1990ies in Belarus. It is called the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT). Anne Brenøe, Richard Martin, and Jenna Stearns re-analyze this dataset with state-of-the-art econometric methods to improve our understanding of how breastfeeding affects child development causally.

The BEBE Cohort Study (funding obtained from SNF)

In the BEBE cohort study, the Center partners with the Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital. We will recruit approximately 7,000 women during their late pregnancy and follow them with regular surveys until, at the very least, the newborn’s first birthday. In this setup, we aim to analyze the determinants of infant feeding choices and its consequences for child and maternal well-being.