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Race and Pregnancy Outcomes in the Twentieth Century: A Long-Term Comparison

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  • COSTA, DORA L.

Abstract

Untreated syphilis explained one-third of the higher prematurity rates of black relative to white babies born at Johns Hopkins in the early twentieth century. Differences in prematurity rates explained 41 percent of the black-white stillbirth gap and one-quarter of the black-white birth weight gap. Black babies had lower mortality and higher weight gain than white babies during the first ten days of life spent in the hospital because of higher black breast-feeding rates. Historically low birth weights may have a long reach: in 1988 maternal birth weight accounted for 5–8 percent of the gap in black-white birth weights.

Suggested Citation

  • Costa, Dora L., 2004. "Race and Pregnancy Outcomes in the Twentieth Century: A Long-Term Comparison," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 1056-1086, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:64:y:2004:i:04:p:1056-1086_04
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Costa, Dora L., 1998. "Unequal at Birth: A Long-Term Comparison of Income and Birth Weight," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(4), pages 987-1009, December.
    2. Smith, James P, 1998. "Socioeconomic Status and Health," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 192-196, May.
    3. Preston, Samuel H. & Hill, Mark E. & Drevenstedt, Greg L., 1998. "Childhood conditions that predict survival to advanced ages among African-Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 47(9), pages 1231-1246, November.
    4. Goldin, Claudia & Margo, Robert A., 1989. "The poor at birth: Birth weights and infant mortality at Philadelphia's almshouse hospital, 1848-1873," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 360-379, July.
    5. Steckel, Richard H., 1986. "Birth weights and infant mortality among American slaves," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 173-198, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eric B. Schneider, 2017. "Children's growth in an adaptive framework: explaining the growth patterns of American slaves and other historical populations," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(1), pages 3-29, February.
    2. Cook, Lisa D. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2016. "The mortality consequences of distinctively black names," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 114-125.
    3. Charles Baum, 2012. "The effects of food stamp receipt on weight gained by expectant mothers," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 25(4), pages 1307-1340, October.
    4. Elder Todd E & Goddeeris John H & Haider Steven J, 2011. "A Deadly Disparity: A Unified Assessment of the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-44, June.
    5. Voigt, Manfred & Heineck, Guido & Hesse, Volker, 2004. "The relationship between maternal characteristics, birth weight and pre-term delivery: evidence from Germany at the end of the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 265-280, June.
    6. Charles L. Baum II, 2010. "The Effects of Food Stamps on Weight Gained by Expectant Mothers," Working Papers 201002, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
    7. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    8. Andrew S. London & Cheryl Elman, 2017. "Race, Remarital Status, and Infertility in 1910: More Evidence of Multiple Causes," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(5), pages 1949-1972, October.
    9. Aparna Lhila & Sharon Long, 2012. "What is driving the black–white difference in low birthweight in the US?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(3), pages 301-315, March.
    10. Dora L. Costa & Joanna Lahey, 2003. "Becoming Oldest-Old: Evidence from Historical U.S. Data," NBER Working Papers 9933, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Logan, Trevon D., 2009. "Health, human capital, and African-American migration before 1910," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 169-185, April.
    12. Leah Boustan & Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Racial Differences in Health in Long-Run Perspective: A Brief Introduction," NBER Working Papers 20765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Atheendar S. Venkataramani, 2011. "The intergenerational transmission of height: evidence from rural Vietnam," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(12), pages 1448-1467, December.
    14. Eric B. Schneider, 2017. "Children's growth in an adaptive framework: explaining the growth patterns of American slaves and other historical populations," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(1), pages 3-29, February.
    15. Galofré-Vilà, Gregori, 2018. "Growth and maturity: A quantitative systematic review and network analysis in anthropometric history," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 107-118.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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