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Saving Babies: The Contribution of Sheppard-Towner to the Decline in Infant Mortality in the 1920s

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  • Carolyn M. Moehling
  • Melissa A. Thomasson

Abstract

From 1922 to 1929, the Sheppard-Towner Act provided matching grants to states to fund maternal and infant care education initiatives. We examine the effects of this public health program on infant mortality. States engaged in different types of activities, allowing us to examine whether different interventions had differential effects on mortality. Interventions that provided one-on-one contact and opportunities for follow-up care, such as home visits by public health nurses, reduced infant deaths more than classes and conferences. Overall, we estimate that Sheppard-Towner activities can account for 9 to 21 percent of the decline in infant mortality over the period.

Suggested Citation

  • Carolyn M. Moehling & Melissa A. Thomasson, 2012. "Saving Babies: The Contribution of Sheppard-Towner to the Decline in Infant Mortality in the 1920s," NBER Working Papers 17996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17996
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John Anyanwu & Andrew E. O. Erhijakpor, 2009. "Health Expenditures and Health Outcomes in Africa," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 21(2), pages 400-433.
    2. Michael R. Haines, 2001. "The Urban Mortality Transition in the United States, 1800-1940," NBER Historical Working Papers 0134, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Sudhir Anand & Martin Ravallion, 1993. "Human Development in Poor Countries: On the Role of Private Incomes and Public Services," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 133-150, Winter.
    4. Thomasson, Melissa A. & Treber, Jaret, 2008. "From home to hospital: The evolution of childbirth in the United States, 1928-1940," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 76-99, January.
    5. Moehling, Carolyn M. & Thomasson, Melissa A., 2012. "The Political Economy of Saving Mothers and Babies: The Politics of State Participation in the Sheppard-Towner Program," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(01), pages 75-103, March.
    6. Kim, Kwangkee & Moody, Philip M., 1992. "More resources better health? A cross-national perspective," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 837-842, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Aaronson & Fabian Lange & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2014. "Fertility Transitions along the Extensive and Intensive Margins," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(11), pages 3701-3724, November.
    2. Anderson, D. Mark & Brown, Ryan & Charles, Kerwin Kofi & Rees, Daniel I., 2016. "The Effect of Occupational Licensing on Consumer Welfare: Early Midwifery Laws and Maternal Mortality," IZA Discussion Papers 10074, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Wüst, Miriam, 2012. "Early interventions and infant health: Evidence from the Danish home visiting program," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 484-495.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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