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Birth weight and family status revisited: evidence from Austrian register data

  • Wolfgang Frimmel
  • Gerald J. Pruckner

In this paper, we study the socio-economic determinants of birth weight with a focus on the mother’s family status. We use Austrian birth register data covering all births between 1984 and 2007 and find that a mother’s marriage is associated with a higher birth weight of the newborn in a range between 4 and 6 dekagrams. This result remains stable if we control for time-invariant unobserved mother heterogeneity. A divorce around pregnancy results in birth weight 2 to 8 dekagrams lower as compared to that of newborn babies of single mothers. The family status effects in the 2000s are stronger as they were in the 1980s. A quantile regression suggests that family effects are more pronounced at the lower quantiles of the birth weight distribution and diminish at higher percentiles. Finally, in accordance with several instrumental variable (IV) studies, we find that the significantly positive impact of family status on children’s health outcomes disappears if we confine our sample to mothers, who are below the age of 22 years. We conclude that social and financial stress may have an important influence on the birth weight of newborns, especially at the lower tail of the birth weight distribution.

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File URL: http://www.econ.jku.at/papers/2011/wp1117.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series Economics working papers with number 2011-17.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2011_17
Contact details of provider: Fax: +43 732-2468-8238
Web page: http://www.econ.jku.at/

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  1. Abrevaya, Jason & Dahl, Christian M, 2008. "The Effects of Birth Inputs on Birthweight," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 26, pages 379-397.
  2. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gordon B. Dahl, 2005. "Early Teen Marriage and Future Poverty," NBER Working Papers 11328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  5. Roger Koenker & Kevin F. Hallock, 2001. "Quantile Regression," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 143-156, Fall.
  6. Joyce, Theodore, 1999. "Impact of augmented prenatal care on birth outcomes of Medicaid recipients in New York City," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 31-67, January.
  7. Bruce Chapman & Cahit Guven, 2010. "Marital Status is Misunderstood in Happiness Models," Economics Series 2010_03, Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance.
  8. Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "The relationship between happiness and health: evidence from Italy," MPRA Paper 30948, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Greg Duncan & Bessie Wilkerson & Paula England, 2006. "Cleaning up their act: The effects of marriage and cohabitation on licit and illicit drug use," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 691-710, November.
  10. Ribar, David C., 2004. "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage? A Review of Quantitative Methodologies," IZA Discussion Papers 998, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Jason Abrevaya, 2001. "The effects of demographics and maternal behavior on the distribution of birth outcomes," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 247-257.
  12. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
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