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Maternal Health and the Baby Boom

  • Claudia Olivetti

    (Boston University)

  • Stefania Albanesi

    (Columbia University)

In 1900, one mother died for every 118 live births in the United States. Approximately 15,000 women died of childbirth each year between 1900 and 1930, and pregnancy related causes accounted for over 15% of all female deaths at age 15-44. For every death, twenty more mothers suffered obstetric complications leading to severe and long term disability. Between 1936 and 1956, maternal deaths dropped by 94%, reaching modern levels by the late 1950s. The incidence of pregnancy-related conditions also underwent a similar reduction. We examine the link between the decline in the maternal health burden and the mid-twentieth century baby boom, exploiting the large cross-state variation in the magnitude of this drop and the differential exposure of women by cohort. We find that for every 10 unit drop in maternal mortality, completed fertility rises by 0.6-1.1 children for women born between 1931 and 1938. These findings provide new insights on the determinants of fertility in the U.S. and other countries that experienced similar improvements in maternal health.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2010 Meeting Papers with number 85.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed010:85
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
Fax: 1-314-444-8731
Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htmEmail:


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