The Causal Effect of Cash Transfers on Birth Rates, the Composition of Mothers and Birth Outcomes: Exploring a Universal Basic Income

Sarah K. Cowan , New York University
Kiara Douds, New York University

We examine the effect of a universal basic income given to a large and diverse American population for nearly thirty years on birth rates and birth outcomes. The amount of the income transfer is exogenous and varies markedly year to year. We thus make causal estimates on the relationship between income and perinatal health. We consider two sets of mechanisms - maternal characteristics, that is, who is giving birth and at what rates -- and maternal prenatal behaviors. We find statistically significant and moderately large effects on birth rates and the composition of mothers and significant but inconsequential effects on birth outcomes. One's start in life has marked impacts on later life health so examining levers of potential change is vital to population health throughout the life-course. We conclude, however, that though income transfers are not an efficient tool to improve perinatal health at current levels of support.

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 Presented in Session 62. Fertility Timing: Causes and Consequences