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Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences

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  • Janet Currie

Abstract

Recent research shows that health at birth is affected by many factors, including maternal education, behaviors, and participation in social programs. In turn, endowments at birth are predictive of adult outcomes, and of the outcomes of future generations. Exposure to environmental pollution is one potential determinant of health at birth that has received increasing attention. A large literature outside of economics advocates for “Environmental Justice,” and argues that poor and minority families are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. I provide new evidence on this question, showing that children born to less educated and minority mothers are more likely to be exposed to pollution in utero and that white, college educated mothers are particularly responsive to changes in environmental amenities. I estimate that differences in exposure to toxic releases may explain 6% of the gap in incidence of low birth weight between infants of white college educated mothers and infants of black high school dropout mothers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16798.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Publication status: published as Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16798

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