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Why has the health inequality among infants in the US declined? Accounting for the shrinking gap

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  • Wanchuan Lin

    (Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing, China)

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    Abstract

    Given that wealthier people are healthier, the increase in income inequality over the past two decades has led to fears that inequalities in health have also increased. Indeed, some papers have found that health disparities have become more salient among some adult populations. Using the US Vital Statistics 1983-2000, this paper presents a new stylized fact: the infant health disparity, as measured by Apgar score, neonatal mortality and infant mortality, has been narrowing over the past two decades. This is in sharp contrast to the increasing disparities in health among adults of different educational backgrounds. Using a decomposition method, I find that the most important factor in explaining the closing gap is an increase in access to medical care. All else being equal, access to proper medical care is the most important factor in explaining the narrowing infant health gap. Demographic shifts and maternal behavior changes are also significant factors, together explaining 42.2% of the closing gap in low Apgar score, 41.4% of the closing gap in neonatal death, and 45.6% of the closing gap in infant death. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Health Economics.

    Volume (Year): 18 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 7 ()
    Pages: 823-841

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:18:y:2009:i:7:p:823-841

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    Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/5749

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    1. Bennett, Trude, 1992. "Marital status and infant health outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 1179-1187, November.
    2. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2004. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 10552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Wanchuan Lin, 2006. "Accounting for the Change in the Gradient: Health Inequality Among Infants," UCLA Economics Working Papers, UCLA Department of Economics 849, UCLA Department of Economics.
    4. Irma Elo & Cassio Turra & Bert Kestenbaum & B. Ferguson, 2004. "Mortality among elderly hispanics in the United States: Past evidence and new results," Demography, Springer, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 109-128, February.
    5. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-64, June.
    6. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," NBER Working Papers 11627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Changes in the Medicaid Eligibility of Pregnant Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-96, December.
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    Cited by:
    1. Reis, Mauricio, 2012. "Differences in nutritional outcomes between Brazilian white and black children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 174-188.
    2. Anne Nolan & Richard Layte, 2014. "Socio-economic Inequalities in Child Health in Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 25-64.
    3. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," NBER Working Papers 16798, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Mariesa Herrmann, 2011. "From Infant to Mother: Early Disease Environment and Future Maternal Health," NBER Working Papers 17676, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Layte, Richard & Nolan, Anne, 2013. "Socioeconomic Inequalities in Child Health in Ireland," Papers, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) WP453, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

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