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Special Issue Review

The intergenerational transmission of inequality: Maternal disadvantage and health at birth

Science
23 May 2014
Vol 344, Issue 6186
pp. 856-861

Abstract

Health at birth is an important predictor of long-term outcomes, including education, income, and disability. Recent evidence suggests that maternal disadvantage leads to worse health at birth through poor health behaviors; exposure to harmful environmental factors; worse access to medical care, including family planning; and worse underlying maternal health. With increasing inequality, those at the bottom of the distribution now face relatively worse economic conditions, but newborn health among the most disadvantaged has actually improved. The most likely explanation is increasing knowledge about determinants of infant health and how to protect it along with public policies that put this knowledge into practice.

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Supplementary Material

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Figs. S1 to S4

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References and Notes

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Although much of the literature focuses on low birth weight as a summary of health at birth, disparities are also present if we look at alternative indicators. Prematurity is examined in fig. S1. Infant mortality for African Americans and whites is shown in fig. S2 over the same time period. Information about the mother’s education and marital status comes from birth records, so infant mortality by education or marital status groups must be constructed by using linked birth and infant death records, which are missing from some years of the data and are only available up to 2006. Figures S3 and S4 are similar to Figs. 2 and 3, except that they include only mothers 20 to 30 years of age. All of these figures suggest that the trends in low birth weight are not anomalous but are present in other measures of infant health.
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Science
Volume 344 | Issue 6186
23 May 2014

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank H. Schwandt for assistance in preparing the figures. J.C. received financial support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and for support from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant EPA G2009-STAR-B1. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Authors

Affiliations

Anna Aizer
Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.
National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Janet Currie* [email protected]
National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Department of Economics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.

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*
Corresponding author. E-mail: [email protected]

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