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Macro-economic conditions and infanthealth: a changing relationship for blackand white infants in the United States


  • Orsini, Chiara
  • Avendano, Mauricio


We study whether the relationship between the state unemployment rate at the time of conception and infant health, infant mortality and maternal characteristics in the United States has changed over the years 1980-2004. We use microdata on births and deaths for years 1980-2004 and find that the relationship between the state unemployment rate at the time of conception and infant mortality and birthweight changes over time and is stronger for blacks than whites. For years 1980-1989 increases in the state unemployment rate are associated with a decline in infant mortality among blacks, an effect driven by mortality from gestational development and birth weight, and complications of placenta while in utero. In contrast, state economic conditions are unrelated to black infant mortality in years 1990-2004 and white infant mortality in any period, although effects vary by cause of death. We explore potential mechanisms for our findings and, including mothers younger than 18 in the analysis, uncover evidence of age-related maternal selection in response to the business cycle. In particular, in years 1980-1989 an increase in the unemployment rate at the time of conception is associated with fewer babies born to young mothers. The magnitude and direction of the relationship between business cycles and infant mortality differs by race and period. Age-related selection into motherhood in response to the business cycle is a possible explanation for this changing relationship.

Suggested Citation

  • Orsini, Chiara & Avendano, Mauricio, 2015. "Macro-economic conditions and infanthealth: a changing relationship for blackand white infants in the United States," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 62307, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:62307

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Andrea Menclova, 2013. "The Effects of Unemployment on Prenatal Care Use and Infant Health," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 34(4), pages 400-420, December.
    3. Ariizumi, Hideki & Schirle, Tammy, 2012. "Are recessions really good for your health? Evidence from Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(8), pages 1224-1231.
    4. repec:ucn:wpaper:10197/317 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Neumayer, Eric, 2004. "Recessions lower (some) mortality rates:: evidence from Germany," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 1037-1047, March.
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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N0 - Economic History - - General

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