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Maternal Stress and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Siblings

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  • Anna Aizer
  • Laura Stroud
  • Stephen Buka

Abstract

We study how maternal stress affects offspring outcomes. We find that in-utero exposure to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol negatively affects offspring cognition, health and educational attainment. These findings are based on comparisons between siblings which limits variation to short-lived shocks and controls for unobserved differences between mothers that could bias estimates. Our results are consistent with recent experimental results in the neurobiological literature linking exogenous exposure to stress hormones in-utero with declines in offspring cognitive, behavioral and motor development. Moreover, we find that not only are mothers with low levels of human capital characterized by higher and more variable cortisol levels, but that the negative impact of elevated cortisol is greater for them. These results suggest that prenatal stress may play a role in the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18422.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18422

Note: CH ED HE LS PE
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  1. Rablen, Matthew D. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Mortality and Immortality," IZA Discussion Papers 2560, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Currie, Janet & Rossin-Slater, Maya, 2013. "Weathering the storm: Hurricanes and birth outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 487-503.
  3. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772, November.
  4. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Hongbin Li & Junsen Zhang, 2007. "Long-Term Effects Of The 1959-1961 China Famine: Mainland China and Hong Kong," NBER Working Papers 13384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Emilia Simeonova, 2009. "Out of Sight, Out of Mind? The Impact of Natural Disasters on Pregnancy Outcomes," CESifo Working Paper Series 2814, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Adriana Camacho, 2008. "Stress and Birth Weight: Evidence from Terrorist Attacks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 511-15, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Sandra Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2014. "Does grief transfer across generations? In-utero deaths and child outcomes," NBER Working Papers 19979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bejenariu, Simona & Mitrut, Andreea, 2012. "Austerity Measures and Infant Health. Lessons from an Unexpected Wage Cut Policy," Working Paper Series, Uppsala University, Department of Economics 2012:4, Uppsala University, Department of Economics, revised 10 Oct 2013.
  3. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder & Reyn van Ewijk, 2012. "Fasting During Pregnancy and Children's Academic Performance," CEE Discussion Papers, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE 0134, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  4. Lindo, Jason M., 2010. "Parental Job Loss and Infant Health," IZA Discussion Papers 5213, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Hani Mansour & Daniel I. Rees, 2011. "The Effect of Prenatal Stress on Birth Weight: Evidence from the al-Aqsa Intifada," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1108, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

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