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Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Natural Disasters and Pregnancy Outcomes in the USA


  • Emilia Simeonova


This article studies the effect of natural disasters on pregnancy outcomes using historical data from the USA. Preterm infants are more likely to be of low birth weight and face increased risk of health problems later in life, implying large long run societal costs. While some of the causes of low birth weight are known, the exact mechanisms leading to prematurity are not well understood. Results confirm that maternal exposure to plausibly exogenous weather events decreases gestational age and birth weight. The negative effects of exposure are particularly strong in the second and early third trimesters of pregnancy, which coincides with the period identified by medical studies as most susceptible to external negative influences. (JEL codes: I10, I12, Q51) Copyright The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Munich. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Emilia Simeonova, 2011. "Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Natural Disasters and Pregnancy Outcomes in the USA," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 57(3), pages 403-431, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cesifo:v:57:y:2011:i:3:p:403-431

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrea Kutinova Menclova & Steven Stillman, 2020. "Maternal stress and birth outcomes: Evidence from an unexpected earthquake swarm," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(12), pages 1705-1720, December.
    2. Poutvaara, Panu & Ropponen, Olli, 2018. "Shocking news and cognitive performance," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 93-106.
    3. Kim, Bongkyun & Carruthers, Celeste K. & Harris, Matthew C., 2017. "Maternal stress and birth outcomes: Evidence from the 1994 Northridge earthquake," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 354-373.
    4. Viviane Sanfelice, 2022. "Mosquito‐borne disease and newborn health," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(1), pages 73-93, January.
    5. 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.
    6. Molina, Oswaldo & Saldarriaga, Victor, 2017. "The perils of climate change: In utero exposure to temperature variability and birth outcomes in the Andean region," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 111-124.
    7. Kyriopoulos, Ilias & Nikoloski, Zlatko & Mossialos, Elias, 2019. "Does economic recession impact newborn health? Evidence from Greece," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 237(C), pages 1-1.
    8. Carlson, Kyle, 2015. "Fear itself: The effects of distressing economic news on birth outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 117-132.
    9. Bladimir Carrillo & Daniel Da Mata & Lucas Emanuel & Daniel Lopes & Breno Sampaio, 2020. "Avoidable environmental disasters and infant health: Evidence from a mining dam collapse in Brazil," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(12), pages 1786-1794, December.
    10. Petra Persson & Maya Rossin-Slater, 2018. "Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(4-5), pages 1214-1252, April.
    11. Andalón, Mabel & Azevedo, João Pedro & Rodríguez-Castelán, Carlos & Sanfelice, Viviane & Valderrama-González, Daniel, 2016. "Weather Shocks and Health at Birth in Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 69-82.
    12. Tamás Hajdu & Gábor Hajdu, 2020. "Temperature, climate change and birth weight: Evidence from Hungary," CERS-IE WORKING PAPERS 2032, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies.
    13. Hope Corman & Dhaval Dave & Nancy E. Reichman, 2018. "Evolution of the Infant Health Production Function," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 85(1), pages 6-47, July.
    14. Gulcan Cil & Trudy Ann Cameron, 2017. "Potential Climate Change Health Risks from Increases in Heat Waves: Abnormal Birth Outcomes and Adverse Maternal Health Conditions," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 37(11), pages 2066-2079, November.
    15. Monica Harber Carney, 2021. "The impact of mental health parity laws on birth outcomes," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(4), pages 748-765, April.
    16. Lee, Chulhee, 2014. "Intergenerational health consequences of in utero exposure to maternal stress: Evidence from the 1980 Kwangju uprising," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 284-291.
    17. Conway, Karen Smith & Trudeau, Jennifer, 2019. "Sunshine, fertility and racial disparities," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 18-39.
    18. Shooshan Danagoulian & Derek Jenkins, 2021. "Rolling back the gains: Maternal stress undermines pregnancy health after Flint's water switch," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(3), pages 564-584, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects


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