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Weathering the Storm: Hurricanes and Birth Outcomes

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  • Janet Currie
  • Maya Rossin-Slater

Abstract

A growing literature suggests that stressful events in pregnancy can have negative effects on birth outcomes. Some of the estimates in this literature may be affected by small samples, omitted variables, endogenous mobility in response to disasters, and errors in the measurement of gestation, as well as by a mechanical correlation between longer gestation and the probability of having been exposed. We use millions of individual birth records to examine the effects of exposure to hurricanes during pregnancy. The data allow us to measure outcomes precisely and to follow the same mother over time; we also suggest estimation methods that correct for omitted unobserved fixed characteristics of the mother, endogenous moving in response to storms, and the above mentioned correlation between gestation length and exposure. We find that exposure to a hurricane during pregnancy increases the probability of complications of labor and delivery, and of abnormal conditions of the newborn such as being on a ventilator more than 30 minutes and meconium aspiration syndrome. Although we do not directly measure stress, our results are supportive of the idea that stressful events in pregnancy can damage the health of the fetus. However our results suggest that the effects may be subtle and not readily apparent in terms of widely-used metrics such as birth weight and gestation.

Suggested Citation

  • Janet Currie & Maya Rossin-Slater, 2012. "Weathering the Storm: Hurricanes and Birth Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 18070, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18070
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Yang Dean, 2008. "Coping with Disaster: The Impact of Hurricanes on International Financial Flows, 1970-2002," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-45, June.
    2. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet, 2011. "Human Capital Development before Age Five," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    3. 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.
    4. Emilia Simeonova, 2009. "Out of Sight, Out of Mind? The Impact of Natural Disasters on Pregnancy Outcomes," CESifo Working Paper Series 2814, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Kasey S. Buckles & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2013. "Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 711-724, July.
    6. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
    7. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2005. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: What Can We Learn from California's Recent Experience?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1003-1030.
    8. Olivier DeschĂȘnes & Enrico Moretti, 2009. "Extreme Weather Events, Mortality, and Migration," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(4), pages 659-681, November.
    9. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, January.
    10. Florencia Torche, 2011. "The Effect of Maternal Stress on Birth Outcomes: Exploiting a Natural Experiment," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(4), pages 1473-1491, November.
    11. Strobl, Eric, 2012. "The economic growth impact of natural disasters in developing countries: Evidence from hurricane strikes in the Central American and Caribbean regions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 130-141.
    12. Adriana Camacho, 2008. "Stress and Birth Weight: Evidence from Terrorist Attacks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 511-515, May.
    13. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-172, Summer.
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    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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