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Prenatal investments, breastfeeding, and birth order

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  • Buckles, Kasey
  • Kolka, Shawna

Abstract

Mothers have many opportunities to invest in their own or their child's health and well-being during pregnancy and immediately after birth. These investments include seeking prenatal care, taking prenatal vitamins, and breastfeeding. In this paper, we investigate a potential determinant of mothers' investments that has been largely overlooked by previous research—birth order. Data are from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) Child and Young Adult Survey, which provides detailed information on pre- and post-natal behaviors of women from the NLSY79. These women were between the ages of 14 and 22 in 1979, and form a nationally representative sample of youth in the United States. Our sample includes births to these women between 1973 and 2010 (10,328 births to 3755 mothers). We use fixed effects regression models to estimate within-mother differences in pre- and post-natal behaviors across births. We find that mothers are 6.6 percent less likely to take prenatal vitamins in a fourth or higher-order birth than in a first and are 10.6 percent less likely to receive early prenatal care. Remarkably, mothers are 15.4 percent less likely to breastfeed a second-born child than a first, and are 20.9 percent less likely to breastfeed a fourth or higher-order child. These results are not explained by changing attitudes toward investments over time. These findings suggest that providers may want to increase efforts to encourage these behaviors at women with higher parity. The results also identify a potential mechanism for the emergence of differences in health and other outcomes across birth orders.

Suggested Citation

  • Buckles, Kasey & Kolka, Shawna, 2014. "Prenatal investments, breastfeeding, and birth order," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 66-70.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:118:y:2014:i:c:p:66-70
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.07.055
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    2. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2016. "Healthy(?), wealthy, and wise: Birth order and adult health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 27-45.
    3. Wei Fan & Catherine Porter, 2020. "Reinforcement or compensation? Parental responses to children’s revealed human capital levels," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(1), pages 233-270, January.
    4. Makate, Marshall, 2016. "Maternal health-seeking behavior and child’s birth order: Evidence from Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe," MPRA Paper 72722, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Jul 2016.
    5. Kieron Barclay & Martin Kolk, 2015. "Birth Order and Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(2), pages 613-639, April.
    6. Pruckner, Gerald J. & Schneeweis, Nicole & Schober, Thomas & Zweimüller, Martina, 2021. "Birth order, parental health investment, and health in childhood," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    7. Anne Ardila Brenøe & Ramona Molitor, 2015. "Birth Order and Health of Newborns: What Can We Learn from Danish Registry Data?," Working Papers 161, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
    8. Spears, Dean & Coffey, Diane & Behrman, Jere R., 2022. "Endogenous inclusion in the Demographic and Health Survey anthropometric sample: Implications for studying height within households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 155(C).
    9. Cuong Viet Nguyen, 2018. "The long-term effects of mistimed pregnancy on children’s education and employment," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 31(3), pages 937-968, July.
    10. Soohyung Lee & Chiara Orsini, 2018. "Girls and boys: Economic crisis, fertility, and birth outcomes," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 33(7), pages 1044-1063, November.
    11. Mats Lillehagen & Martin Arstad Isungset, 2020. "New Partner, New Order? Multipartnered Fertility and Birth Order Effects on Educational Achievement," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(5), pages 1625-1646, October.
    12. Anne Ardila Brenøe & Ramona Molitor, 2018. "Birth order and health of newborns," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 31(2), pages 363-395, April.
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    14. Kieron J. Barclay & Torkild H. Lyngstad & Dalton Conley, 2018. "The production of inequalities within families and across generations: the intergenerational effects of birth order and family size on educational attainment," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2018-002, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
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    16. Brandon J. Restrepo, 2016. "Parental investment responses to a low birth weight outcome: who compensates and who reinforces?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(4), pages 969-989, October.
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    18. Anne Ardila Brenoee & Ramona Molitor, 2015. "Birth Order and Health of Newborns: What Can We Learn from Danish Registry Data?," CINCH Working Paper Series 1513, Universitaet Duisburg-Essen, Competent in Competition and Health, revised Oct 2015.

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