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Booms, Busts, and Babies' Health

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  • Rajeev Dehejia

    (Columbia University and NBER)

  • Adriana Lleras-Muney

    (Princeton University and NBER)

Abstract

This paper documents a counter-cyclical pattern in the health of children, and examines whether this pattern is due to selection among women choosing to give birth or to behavioral changes. We study the relationship between the unemployment rate at the time of a baby?s conception and parental characteristics, parental behaviors, and babies? health. Using national data from the Natality Files from 1975 onward, we find that babies conceived in times of high unemployment have a reduced incidence of low and very low birth weight, fewer congenital malformations, and a reduced rate of post-neonatal mortality. These health improvements are attributable both to selection (changes in the type of mothers that conceive during recessions) and to changes in behavior during recessions. Black mothers tend to be higher socio-economic status (as measured by education and marital status) in times of high unemployment, whereas white mothers are less educated. Health behaviors also appear to improve among all pregnant women, although we cannot reject the hypothesis that all health improvements among black women are due to selection.

Suggested Citation

  • Rajeev Dehejia & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2004. "Booms, Busts, and Babies' Health," Working Papers 250, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:32
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    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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