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Every Breath You Take: The Effect of Postpartum Maternal Smoking on Childhood Asthma


  • Joseph J. Sabia

    () (American University, Department of Public Administration & Policy, School of Public Affairs, Ward Circle Building, Washington, DC 20016, USA)


Recent studies in the public health literature and a June 2006 Surgeon General's report have cited a link between exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and childhood asthma. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this paper explores the sensitivity of this relationship to unobserved heterogeneity. Cross-section estimates show consistent evidence of a positive relationship between postpartum maternal smoking and childhood asthma, particularly among populations at high risk for asthma: racial minorities and children of mothers with low educational attainment. Importantly, this relationship persists after controlling for fixed individual-level unobservables. Difference-in-difference estimates show that the onset of maternal smoking is associated with a 4 to 7 percentage-point increase in childhood asthma rates. The results of several falsification tests—which examine the effect of maternal smoking on other health outcomes not expected to be causally affected by exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke—lend credibility to the fixed effects identification strategy.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph J. Sabia, 2008. "Every Breath You Take: The Effect of Postpartum Maternal Smoking on Childhood Asthma," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-158, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:75:1:y:2008:p:128-158

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    Cited by:

    1. Eiji Yamamura, 2014. "Smokers’ Sexual Behavior and Their Satisfaction with Family Life," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 118(3), pages 1229-1247, September.
    2. Marianne Page & Jessamyn Schaller & David Simon, 2016. "The Effects of Aggregate and Gender-Specific Labor Demand Shocks on Child Health," NBER Working Papers 22394, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Green, Tiffany L., 2014. "Examining the temporal relationships between childhood obesity and asthma," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 14(C), pages 92-102.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior


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