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Is Prenatal Care Really Ineffective? Or, is the 'Devil' in the Distribution?

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Abstract

It is widely believed that expanding prenatal care should improve infant health; yet research typically finds weak effects of prenatal care on infant health. We argue that there are two kinds of pregnancies, 'complicated' and 'normal' ones, and that combining these pregnancies, as past research does, may lead prenatal care to appear ineffective. Data from the NMIHS offers compelling evidence supporting our view. The standard 2SLS approach yields residuals that are obviously bimodal and prenatal care coefficients that are frequently insignificant. In contrast, estimating birth weights with a finite mixture model yields estimates that are much more robust and that clearly suggest that prenatal care has a consistent, substantial effect on ?normal? pregnancies. Our Monte Carlo experiment confirms that ignoring even a small proportion of ?complicated? pregnancies can lead the onset of prenatal care to appear unimportant.

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Paper provided by Hunter College Department of Economics in its series Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College with number 02/2.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:htr:hcecon:02/2

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  7. Joyce, Theodore, 1999. "Impact of augmented prenatal care on birth outcomes of Medicaid recipients in New York City," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 31-67, January.
  8. Geoffrey Warner, 1998. "Birthweight Productivity of Prenatal Care," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 42-63, July.
  9. John F. Geweke & Michael P. Keane, 1997. "Mixture of normals probit models," Staff Report 237, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. Theodore Joyce, 1994. "Self-Selection, Prenatal Care, and Birthweight among Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics in New York City," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(3), pages 762-794.
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  13. Janet Currie & Jeffrey Grogger, 2000. "Medicaid Expansions and Welfare Contractions: Offsetting Effects on Prenatal Care and Infant Health?," NBER Working Papers 7667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Wang, Peiming & Cockburn, Iain M & Puterman, Martin L, 1998. "Analysis of Patent Data--A Mixed-Poisson-Regression-Model Approach," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 16(1), pages 27-41, January.
  15. Mark R. Rosenzweig & T. Paul Schultz, 1982. "The Behavior of Mothers as Inputs to Child Health: The Determinants of Birth Weight, Gestation, and Rate of Fetal Growth," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 53-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-96, December.
  17. Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Policy Watch: Medicaid and Uninsured Women and Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 199-208, Fall.
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