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Why has the health inequality among infants in the US declined? Accounting for the shrinking gap

  • Wanchuan Lin

    (Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing, China)

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    Given that wealthier people are healthier, the increase in income inequality over the past two decades has led to fears that inequalities in health have also increased. Indeed, some papers have found that health disparities have become more salient among some adult populations. Using the US Vital Statistics 1983-2000, this paper presents a new stylized fact: the infant health disparity, as measured by Apgar score, neonatal mortality and infant mortality, has been narrowing over the past two decades. This is in sharp contrast to the increasing disparities in health among adults of different educational backgrounds. Using a decomposition method, I find that the most important factor in explaining the closing gap is an increase in access to medical care. All else being equal, access to proper medical care is the most important factor in explaining the narrowing infant health gap. Demographic shifts and maternal behavior changes are also significant factors, together explaining 42.2% of the closing gap in low Apgar score, 41.4% of the closing gap in neonatal death, and 45.6% of the closing gap in infant death. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/hec.1407
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    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Health Economics.

    Volume (Year): 18 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 7 ()
    Pages: 823-841

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:18:y:2009:i:7:p:823-841
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/5749

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    1. Douglas Almond & Kenneth Y. Chay & David S. Lee, 2005. "The Costs of Low Birth Weight," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1031-1083, August.
    2. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-64, June.
    3. 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 1263-96, December.
    4. Wanchuan Lin, 2006. "Accounting for the Change in the Gradient: Health Inequality Among Infants," UCLA Economics Working Papers 849, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U. S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2095, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    6. Bennett, Trude, 1992. "Marital status and infant health outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 1179-1187, November.
    7. Irma Elo & Cassio Turra & Bert Kestenbaum & B. Ferguson, 2004. "Mortality among elderly hispanics in the United States: Past evidence and new results," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 109-128, February.
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