Early childhood origins of the income/health gradient: The role of maternal health behaviors
Several recent studies in the US, Canada, and the UK have demonstrated a positive relationship between family income and child health, though the mechanisms underlying this relationship are poorly understood. Using data from the 1988 US National Maternal and Infant Health Survey and the 1991 follow-up, this paper tests whether maternal health status and health behaviors during pregnancy and early infancy can explain the relationship between family income and subjective health status at age 3. We find that, while a detailed set of controls for health risk factors including maternal smoking, drinking, and vitamin use during pregnancy, as well as breastfeeding and secondhand smoke exposure after birth, are significantly related to family income and maternal education, they do not explain the relationship between family income and maternal-assessed health of the child. We suggest that these results point to either more salient pathways through which family income impacts child health, such as maternal stress, or to the possibility that differences in subjective health status do not correspond to differences in objective health status in the same way for higher- and lower-income respondents.
Volume (Year): 65 (2007)
Issue (Month): 6 (September)
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