IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/oup/qjecon/v120y2005i3p1031-1083..html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Costs of Low Birth Weight

Author

Listed:
  • Douglas Almond
  • Kenneth Y. Chay
  • David S. Lee

Abstract

Low birth weight (LBW) infants experience severe health and developmental difficulties that can impose large costs on society. However, estimates of the return to LBW-prevention from cross-sectional associations may be biased by omitted variables, such as genetic factors. To address this, we compare the hospital costs, health at birth, and infant mortality rates between heavier and lighter infants from all twin pairs born in the United States. We also examine the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy—the leading risk factor for LBW in the United States—on health among singleton births after controlling for detailed background characteristics. Both analyses imply substantially smaller effects of LBW per se than previously thought, suggesting two possibilities: 1) existing estimates overstate the true costs and consequences of LBW by at least a factor of four and by as much as a factor of twenty; or 2) different LBW-preventing interventions have different health and cost consequences, implying that policy efforts that presume a single return to reducing LBW will be suboptimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:3:p:1031-1083.
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/120.3.1031
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Windsor, R.A. & Lowe, J.B. & Perkins, L.L. & Smith-Yoder, D. & Artz, L. & Crawford, M. & Amburgy, K. & Boyd Jr., N.R., 1993. "Health education for pregnant smokers: Its behavioral impact and cost benefit," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 83(2), pages 201-206.
    2. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Changes in the Medicaid Eligibility of Pregnant Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-1296, December.
    3. Pollack, H. & Lantz, P.M. & Frohna, J.G., 2000. "Maternal smoking and adverse birth outcomes among singletons and twins," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 90(3), pages 395-400.
    4. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532.
    5. Fingerhut, L.A. & Kleinman, J.C. & Kendrick, J.S., 1990. "Smoking before, during, and after pregnancy," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 80(5), pages 541-544.
    6. Hanratty, Maria J, 1996. "Canadian National Health Insurance and Infant Health," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 276-284, March.
    7. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
    8. Grossman, Michael & Joyce, Theodore J, 1990. "Unobservables, Pregnancy Resolutions, and Birth Weight Production Functions in New York City," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 983-1007, October.
    9. Currie, Janet & Cole, Nancy, 1993. "Welfare and Child Health: The Link between AFDC Participation and Birth Weight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 971-985, September.
    10. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 1991. "Inequality at birth : The scope for policy intervention," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 205-228, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2008. "Intrafamily Resource Allocations: A Dynamic Model of Birth Weight," IZA Discussion Papers 3704, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "The Impact of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Geographic Variation in Pollution Shocks Induced by a Recession," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1121-1167.
    3. 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.
    4. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet, 2011. "Human Capital Development before Age Five," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 15, pages 1315-1486, Elsevier.
    5. Verónica Amarante & Marco Manacorda & Edward Miguel & Andrea Vigorito, 2011. "Do Cash Transfers Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from Matched Vital Statistics, Social Security and Program Data," CEP Discussion Papers dp1106, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. Nastis, Stefanos A. & Crocker, Thomas D., 2012. "Valuing mother and child health: The intrauterine environment," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 318-328.
    7. Verónica Amarante & Marco Manacorda & Edward Miguel & Andrea Vigorito, 2016. "Do Cash Transfers Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from Matched Vital Statistics, Program, and Social Security Data," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 1-43, May.
    8. Ellen Meara, 2001. "Why is Health Related to Socioeconomic Status?," NBER Working Papers 8231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. repec:ucn:wpaper:10197/317 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Mark E. Mcgovern, 2013. "Still Unequal at Birth: Birth Weight,Socio-economic Status and Outcomes at Age 9," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 44(1), pages 53-84.
    11. Jason Abrevaya, 2006. "Estimating the effect of smoking on birth outcomes using a matched panel data approach," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(4), pages 489-519, May.
    12. Gabriella Conti & Mark Hanson & Hazel Inskip & Sarah Crozier & Cyrus Cooper & Keith Godfrey, 2018. "Beyond Birth Weight: The Origins of Human Capital," Working Papers 2018-089, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    13. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439.
    14. Janet Currie, 2004. "Viewpoint: Child research comes of age," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 37(3), pages 509-527, August.
    15. Eriksson, Tor & Pan, Jay & Qin, Xuezheng, 2014. "The intergenerational inequality of health in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 392-409.
    16. Mocan, Naci & Raschke, Christian & Unel, Bulent, 2015. "The impact of mothers’ earnings on health inputs and infant health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 204-223.
    17. 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.
    18. Janet Currie, 2020. "Child health as human capital," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(4), pages 452-463, April.
    19. Xavier d'Haultfoeuille & Stefan Hoderlein & Yuya Sasaki, 2013. "Nonlinear difference-in-differences in repeated cross sections with continuous treatments," CeMMAP working papers CWP40/13, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    20. Grytten, Jostein & Skau, Irene & Sørensen, Rune J., 2014. "Educated mothers, healthy infants. The impact of a school reform on the birth weight of Norwegian infants 1967–2005," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 84-92.
    21. Anna Christina D'Addio, 2007. "Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage: Mobility or Immobility Across Generations?," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 52, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:3:p:1031-1083.. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Oxford University Press or Christopher F. Baum (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.