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Does unemployment worsen babies’ health? A tale of siblings, maternal behaviour, and selection

De Cao, Elisabetta ORCID: 0000-0002-7769-486X, McCormick, Barry and Nicodemo, Catia (2022) Does unemployment worsen babies’ health? A tale of siblings, maternal behaviour, and selection. Journal of Health Economics, 83. ISSN 0167-6296

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2022.102601


We study in-utero exposure to economic fluctuations on birth outcomes by exploiting geographical variation in the unemployment rate across local areas in England, and by comparing siblings born to the same mother. Using rich individual data from hospital administrative records for 2003–2012, babies’ health is found to be strongly pro-cyclical. This overall result masks marked differences between babies born in the most affluent areas whose health at birth improves in a recession, and babies born in the average-to-lowest income deprived areas whose health deteriorates. Maternal alcohol consumption, smoking, and delay in the first antenatal care assessment - combined with parental income loss, are found to drive the results. While differences in maternal risky behaviours can explain the heterogenous effects.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
JEL classification: E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics > E2 - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment > E24 - Macroeconomics: Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution (includes wage indexation)
I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I10 - General
I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I12 - Health Production: Nutrition, Mortality, Morbidity, Suicide, Substance Abuse and Addiction, Disability, and Economic Behavior
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J1 - Demographic Economics > J13 - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2022 10:27
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 01:12

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