Children's Program Meeting

May 10, 2012
Janet Currie of Princeton University, Organizer

Elizabeth Ananat, Duke University and NBER, and Anna Gassman-Pines, Dania V. Francis, and Christina M. Gibson-Davis, Duke University

Children Left Behind: The Effects of Statewide Job Loss on Student Achievement(NBER Working Paper No. 17104)

Ananat, Gassman-Pines, Francis, and Gibson-Davis examine the effects of state-level job losses on fourth- and eighth-grade test scores, using federal Mass Layoff Statistics and 1996-2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress data. Their results indicate that job losses decrease scores. The effects are larger for eighth than fourth graders and for math than reading assessments, and are robust to specification checks. Job losses up to 1 percent of a state’s working-age population lead to a .076 standard deviation decrease in the state’s eighth-grade math scores. This result is an order of magnitude larger than those found in previous studies that have compared students whose parents lose employment to otherwise similar student. It suggests that downturns affect all students, not just students who experience parental job loss. These findings have important implications for accountability schemes: the authors calculate that a state experiencing one-year job losses of up to 2 percent of its workers (a magnitude observed in seven states) likely sees a 16 percent increase in the share of its schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB.

Achyuta Adhvaryu and Anant Nyshadham, Yale University

Endowments and Investments within the Household: Evidence from Iodine Supplementation in Tanzania

Adhvaryu and Nyshadham study how endowments at birth affect parents' resource allocation decisions among children. They exploit variation in exposure to a large-scale iodine supplementation program in Tanzania, and find that the treated children and their siblings are more likely to receive necessary vaccines and are breastfed longer. In a model of intrahousehold allocations, this pattern of responses implies that parents are averse to sibling inequality, while imposing minimal structure on the child-quality production function. Neonatal investments and fertility behaviors are unaffected, suggesting that parents reacted to observed endowment changes rather than indirect program effects.

Jorge Aguero and Deolalikar Anil, University of California, Riverside

Late Bloomers? Identifying Critical Periods in Human Capital Accumulation -- Evidence from the Rwanda Genocide

Aguero and Anil use the severe and short-lived shock created by the 1994 Rwanda genocide to identify key ages in the accumulation of human capital. Using the post-genocide Demographic and Health Survey for Rwanda and neighboring countries, they explore how exposure to the genocide affected women's health as measured by their adult height. They show that the effect of the shock decreases with age, because younger girls were affected more severely. However, the effect is not zero for older girls. There are large negative impacts even for those who were between age 13 and 18 at the time of the genocide. These results are robust to a large set of possible confounding factors, including the possible nonrandom survival rates of the genocide, and suggest that the sensitive periods for this aspect of human capital accumulation go well beyond early childhood.

Maya Rossin-Slater, Columbia University

Engaging Absent Fathers: Lessons from Paternity Establishment Programs

Policies aimed at improving the well-being of disadvantaged single-mother households often seek to engage non-resident fathers with their families. However, by providing an alternative family involvement method to marriage, these policies create an "intermediate" option that can have unintended consequences: although they increase support from otherwise absent fathers, they also can deter some parents from the fuller commitment of marriage, thereby lowering the level of involvement among fathers who might otherwise be married. The latter effect may occur because some mothers value partial support outside marriage more than full support and the resulting interaction with lower-than-desired quality partners in marriage. To examine these ideas, Rossin-Slater provides the first comprehensive analysis of the causal effects of in-hospital voluntary paternity establishment (IHVPE), the major U.S. program that substantially lowered paternity establishment costs for new unmarried parents. Using variation in the timing of IHVPE initiation, she shows that while IHVPE increases paternity establishment rates by a substantial 38 percent, it also reduces the likelihood of parental marriage post-childbirth. Once she accounts for selection out of marriage, she finds some evidence of a net reduction in paternal transfers: private health insurance provision for children declines, while maternal labor supply increases. On the whole, measures of child welfare such as total household income and child mental and physical health are unaffected, although children's access to preventative care declines.

Emla Fitzsimons, Institute for Fiscal Studies, and Marcos Vera-Hernández, University College London

Breastfeeding and Children's Development

There is a large gradient in breastfeeding rates across education groups, with rates in the developed world considerably higher among the relatively more educated. This may be a contributory factor in the intergenerational transmission of human capital. Fitzsimons and Vera-Hernández estimate the causal effects of breastfeeding on children's development. They provide strong evidence to show that babies born just before or during the weekend are significantly less likely to be breastfed, most likely because hospitals dedicate fewer resources to non-essential services – such as breastfeeding support at time -- when they are more costly, namely at weekends. The authors use variation in the timing/day of birth to estimate the effect of breastfeeding on children's subsequent cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. With the exception of planned Caesarean sections, which they exclude from the analysis, they argue that timing of birth is random. They find that breastfeeding has large and significant effects on the developmental outcomes of the children of relatively less educated mothers. These effects remain until at least the age of seven. A Monte Carlo analysis shows that these Instrumental Variable estimates are conservative and the confidence intervals have the right coverage.

Sara Borelli, IMPAQ International, and Robert Kaestner, University of Illinois and NBER

Long Term Effects of Abortion Parental Involvement Laws

Borelli and Kaestner examine whether women growing up in states with abortion parental involvement laws had more children when they were between the ages of 21 and 32 than women growing up in states without such laws. Their results indicate that these laws were associated with an increase in fertility of white and black women, a decrease in educational attainment, and among white women, an increase in the probability of receiving public assistance. The results, which mask much larger effects for women actually affected by the laws, suggest that these laws increase teen births and that this increase is long lasting.

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