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

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  • Wanchuan Lin

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Wanchuan Lin, 2009. "Why has the health inequality among infants in the US declined? Accounting for the shrinking gap," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(7), pages 823-841.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:18:y:2009:i:7:p:823-841
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.1407
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," NBER Working Papers 11627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Irma Elo & Cassio Turra & Bert Kestenbaum & B. Ferguson, 2004. "Mortality among elderly hispanics in the United States: Past evidence and new results," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(1), pages 109-128, February.
    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 1263-1296, December.
    4. Bennett, Trude, 1992. "Marital status and infant health outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 1179-1187, November.
    5. Wanchuan Lin, 2006. "Accounting for the Change in the Gradient: Health Inequality Among Infants," UCLA Economics Working Papers 849, UCLA Department of Economics.
    6. 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.
    7. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-564, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Layte & Anne Nolan, 2015. "Eligibility for free GP care and the utilisation of GP services by children in Ireland," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 3-27, March.
    2. Reis, Mauricio, 2012. "Differences in nutritional outcomes between Brazilian white and black children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 174-188.
    3. Hope Corman & Dhaval M. Dave & Nancy E. Reichman, 2017. "Evolution of the Infant Health Production Function," NBER Working Papers 24131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet & Herrmann, Mariesa, 2012. "From infant to mother: Early disease environment and future maternal health," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 475-483.
    5. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
    6. Anne Nolan & Richard Layte, 2014. "Socio-economic Inequalities in Child Health in Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 25-64.

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