Toward an Earlier Measure of Opportunity: Trends in Inequality of Infant Health

Emily Rauscher , Brown University

Infant health is fundamental to subsequent outcomes and has drastic consequences for inequality, both through health in later life and because effects on cognitive development, education, and income accumulate over time. To provide an earlier and more inclusive measure of unequal opportunity, this study uses 1969-2015 NVSS birth certificate data and calculates several measures of health inequality by maternal education and race. Tracking these inequalities over time reveals a nonlinear pattern, with an inflection point at 1986 when the threshold for Medicaid coverage was allowed to rise above the limits for AFDC receipt. Trends since the early 2000s, when many states cut Medicaid and SCHIP funding, show rising inequality of infant health, which has implications for future educational and labor market inequality.

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 Presented in Session 11. Health & Mortality 2