Maternal Health Behaviors and the Childhood Health Gradient
Jennifer Dowd, Princeton University
Case, Lubotsky and Paxson (AER 2002) document a significant relationship between family income and childhood health in the United States. This paper extends that research by investigating the role of maternal health behaviors in the relationship between family income and childhood health. Using data from the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey and the 1991 follow-up, I test whether maternal health behaviors during pregnancy and early infancy can explain the relationship between family income and various measures of children's health. A detailed set of maternal behaviors does not explain the relationship between family income and parental-assessed health of the child. However, a limited number of maternal health behaviors successfully explain the income gradient in prevalence of asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses. These results suggest that income gradients in subjective health measures might be difficult to explain with physical variables and research should focus on specific causes of ill-health.
Presented in Poster Session 5: Health and Mortality