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Early childhood origins of the income/health gradient: The role of maternal health behaviors

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  • Dowd, Jennifer Beam

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Dowd, Jennifer Beam, 2007. "Early childhood origins of the income/health gradient: The role of maternal health behaviors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(6), pages 1202-1213, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:65:y:2007:i:6:p:1202-1213
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:97:y:2003:i:04:p:567-583_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:pri:cheawb:case_paxson_economic_status_paper is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile, 2003. "Socioeconomic Status and Child Health: Why Is the Relationship Stronger for Older Children?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1813-1823, December.
    5. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:01:p:191-207_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    8. Chen, Edith & Martin, Andrew D. & Matthews, Karen A., 2006. "Socioeconomic status and health: Do gradients differ within childhood and adolescence?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(9), pages 2161-2170, May.
    9. Currie, Alison & Shields, Michael A. & Price, Stephen Wheatley, 2007. "The child health/family income gradient: Evidence from England," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 213-232, March.
    10. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2004.049312_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Brian Finch, 2003. "Early origins of the gradient: the relationship between socioeconomic status and infant mortality in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(4), pages 675-699, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Khanam, Rasheda & Nghiem, Hong Son & Connelly, Luke B., 2009. "Child health and the income gradient: Evidence from Australia," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 805-817, July.
    2. Daniel Kuehnle, 2013. "The causal effect of family income on child health: A re-examination using an instrumental variables approach," Working Papers 133, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
    3. repec:spr:chinre:v:9:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s12187-015-9303-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Shu-Hsi Ho & Wen-Shai Hung, 2013. "A study of the Health of Children Born to Foreign- and Native-Born Mothers in Taiwan," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 355-368, September.
    5. Jason Murasko, 2015. "The Age Profile of the Income–Health Gradient: An Evaluation of Two Large Cohorts of Contemporary US Children," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 289-298, June.
    6. Gundersen, Craig & Kreider, Brent, 2009. "Bounding the effects of food insecurity on children's health outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 971-983, September.
    7. Jackson, Margot I., 2015. "Early childhood WIC participation, cognitive development and academic achievement," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 145-153.
    8. Mortensen, Laust H., 2013. "Socioeconomic inequality in birth weight and gestational age in Denmark 1996–2007: Using a family-based approach to explore alternative explanations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-7.

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