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Maternal Stress and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Siblings

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  • Anna Aizer
  • Laura Stroud
  • Stephen Buka

Abstract

We study how maternal stress affects offspring outcomes. We find that in-utero exposure to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol negatively affects offspring cognition, health and educational attainment. These findings are based on comparisons between siblings which limits variation to short-lived shocks and controls for unobserved differences between mothers that could bias estimates. Our results are consistent with recent experimental results in the neurobiological literature linking exogenous exposure to stress hormones in-utero with declines in offspring cognitive, behavioral and motor development. Moreover, we find that not only are mothers with low levels of human capital characterized by higher and more variable cortisol levels, but that the negative impact of elevated cortisol is greater for them. These results suggest that prenatal stress may play a role in the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna Aizer & Laura Stroud & Stephen Buka, 2012. "Maternal Stress and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Siblings," NBER Working Papers 18422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18422
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    1. Currie, Janet & Rossin-Slater, Maya, 2013. "Weathering the storm: Hurricanes and birth outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 487-503.
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    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. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
    6. Rablen, Matthew D. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Mortality and Immortality," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 785, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    7. Diane Lauderdale, 2006. "Birth outcomes for Arabic-named women in California before and after September 11," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(1), pages 185-201, February.
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    9. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Hongbin Li & Junsen Zhang, 2007. "Long-Term Effects Of The 1959-1961 China Famine: Mainland China and Hong Kong," NBER Working Papers 13384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sandra Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2014. "Does grief transfer across generations? In-utero deaths and child outcomes," NBER Working Papers 19979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2017. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," NBER Working Papers 23017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Bejenariu, Simona & Mitrut, Andreea, 2012. "Austerity Measures and Infant Health. Lessons from an Unexpected Wage Cut Policy," Working Paper Series 2012:4, Uppsala University, Department of Economics, revised 10 Oct 2013.
    4. Hope Corman & Dhaval M. Dave & Nancy E. Reichman, 2017. "Evolution of the Infant Health Production Function," NBER Working Papers 24131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder & Reyn van Ewijk, 2012. "Fasting During Pregnancy and Children's Academic Performance," CEE Discussion Papers 0134, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
    6. Sandner, Malte & Cornelissen, Thomas & Jungmann, Tanja & Herrmann, Peggy, 2018. "Evaluating the effects of a targeted home visiting program on maternal and child health outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 269-283.
    7. John Cawley & Damien de Walque & Daniel Grossman, 2017. "The Effect of Stress on Later-Life Health: Evidence from the Vietnam Draft," NBER Working Papers 23334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. repec:eee:socmed:v:194:y:2017:i:c:p:67-75 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Krzysztof Karbownik & Anthony Wray, 2016. "Long-run Consequences of Exposure to Natural Disasters," CESifo Working Paper Series 6196, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Chloe N. East & Sarah Miller & Marianne Page & Laura R. Wherry, 2017. "Multi-generational Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net: Early Life Exposure to Medicaid and the Next Generation’s Health," NBER Working Papers 23810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Duncan, Brian & Mansour, Hani & Rees, Daniel I., 2015. "Prenatal Stress and Low Birth Weight: Evidence from the Super Bowl," IZA Discussion Papers 9053, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Lindo, Jason M., 2011. "Parental job loss and infant health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 869-879.
    13. Jennifer Trudeau & Karen Smith Conway & Andrea Kutinova Menclova, 2016. "Soaking Up the Sun: The Role of Sunshine in the Production of Infant Health," American Journal of Health Economics, MIT Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-40, January.
    14. Mansour, Hani & Rees, Daniel I., 2011. "The Effect of Prenatal Stress on Birth Weight: Evidence from the al-Aqsa Intifada," IZA Discussion Papers 5535, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Stearns, Jenna, 2015. "The effects of paid maternity leave: Evidence from Temporary Disability Insurance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 85-102.
    16. Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder & Reyn van Ewijk, 2011. "Fasting During Pregnancy and Children's Academic Performance," NBER Working Papers 17713, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Randall Akee & Emilia Simeonova & E. Jane Costello & William Copeland, 2015. "How Does Household Income Affect Child Personality Traits and Behaviors?," NBER Working Papers 21562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Buckles, Kasey, 2017. "Maternal Socio-Economic Status and the Well-Being of the Next Generation(s)," IZA Discussion Papers 10714, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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