Economic Downturns and Inequities in Birth Outcomes: Evidence From 148 Million U.S. Births

Clemens Noelke , Brandeis University
Chen Yu-Han, Brandeis University
Theresa L. Osypuk, University of Minnesota
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Brandeis University

Using birth certificate data for nearly all registered US births over the past 40 years and monthly data on state unemployment rates, this study reexamines the link between macroeconomic variation and birth outcomes, with a focus on variation in the effect of unemployment over time and by maternal race and education. We find that a one percentage point increase in state unemployment during the first trimester of pregnancy increases the probability of preterm birth (PTB) by 0.1 percentage points, while increases in the state unemployment rate during the second and third trimester reduce the probability of PTB by 0.05 percentage points. Over the entire observation period, we find that less educated, black, and black and less educated women are more vulnerable to the business cycle. For less educated, and black and less educated mothers, this vulnerability is further increased during the most recent period covering the Great Recession.

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 Presented in Session 91. Agriculture and Child Mortality