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Maternal stress and birth outcomes: Evidence from an unexpected earthquake swarm

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  • Andrea Kutinova Menclova
  • Steven Stillman

Abstract

We examine the impact of a major earthquake that unexpectedly affected the Canterbury region of New Zealand on a wide‐range of birth outcomes, including birth weight, gestational age, and an indicator of general newborn health. We control for observed and unobserved differences between pregnant women in the area affected by the earthquake and other pregnant women by including mother fixed effects in all of our regression models. We extend the previous literature by comparing the impact of the initial unexpected earthquake to the impacts of thousands of aftershocks that occurred in the same region over the 18 months following the initial earthquake. We find that exposure to these earthquakes reduced gestational age, increased the likelihood of having a late birth, and negatively affected newborn health—with the largest effects for earthquakes that occurred in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Our estimates are similar when we focus on just the impact of the initial earthquake or, in contrast, on all earthquakes controlling for endogenous location decisions using an instrumental variables approach. This suggests that the previous estimates in the literature that use this approach are likely unbiased and that treatment effects are homogenous in the population. We present supporting evidence that the likely channel for these adverse effects is maternal stress.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:29:y:2020:i:12:p:1705-1720
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.4162
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Chris Sampson’s journal round-up for 7th December 2020
      by Chris Sampson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2020-12-07 12:00:03

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    1. Victor Hugo de Oliveira & Ines Lee & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2021. "Natural Disasters and Early Human Development: Hurricane Catarina and Infant Health in Brazil," Working Papers 2021-005, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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