Children's Program Meeting

May 10, 2013
Janet Currie of University of California, Los Angeles, Organizer

Jason Lindo, University of Oregon and NBER; Jessamyn Schaller, University of Arizona; and Benjamin Hansen, University of Oregon

Economic Conditions and Child Abuse (NBER Working Paper No. 18994)

Although a huge literature spanning several disciplines documents an association between poverty and child abuse, researchers have not found persuasive evidence that economic downturns increase abuse, despite their impacts on family income. Lindo, Schaller, and Hansen address this seeming contradiction. Using county-level child abuse data spanning 1996 to 2009 from the California Department of Justice, they estimate the extent to which a county's reported abuse rate diverges from its trend when its economic conditions diverge from trend, controlling for statewide annual shocks. The results of this analysis indicate that overall measures of economic conditions are not strongly related to rates of abuse. However, focusing on overall measures of economic conditions masks strong opposing effects of economic conditions facing males and females: male layoffs increase rates of abuse whereas female layoffs reduce rates of abuse. These results are consistent with a theoretical framework that builds on family-time-use models and emphasizes differential risks of abuse associated with a child's time spent with different caregivers.

David Figlio, Northwestern University and NBER

The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Children's Cognitive Development (NBER Working Paper No. 18446)

Figlio makes use of a new data resource, merged birth and school records for all children born in Florida from 1992 to 2002, to study the effects of birth weight on cognitive development from kindergarten through schooling. Using twin fixed effects models, he finds that the effects of birth weight on cognitive development are essentially constant through the school career; these effects are very similar across a wide range of family backgrounds; and they are invariant to measures of school quality. He concludes that the effects of poor neonatal health on adult outcomes are thus set very early.

Rukmini Banerji, Pratham; James Berry, Cornell University; and Marc Shotland, MIT

The Impact of Mother Literacy and Participation Programs on Child Learning: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in India

Banerji, Berry, and Shotland report the results of a randomized evaluation of three programs designed to improve the home learning environment among rural households in India. Households were assigned into one of four groups that received either: 1) adult literacy classes for mothers, 2) training for mothers on how to enhance their children's learning at home, 3) a combination of the first two interventions, or 4) nothing, which serves as the control group. The researchers find that mothers in the first three groups perform 0.11, 0.06, and 0.15 standard deviations better (respectively) on a combined language and math test than the control group. The three programs had statistically significant effects of 0.04, 0.05, and 0.07 standard deviations on children's math scores (respectively), but only the combined intervention had significant effects on language scores. They find that the interventions increased women's empowerment, mother participation in child learning, and the presence of education assets in the home.

Jorge Aguero and Mindy Marks, University of California at Riverside, and Neha Raykar, Public Health Foundation India

The Wage Penalty for Motherhood in Developing Countries

Despite the growing size and importance of female employment worldwide, there have been limited efforts to explore the magnitude and causes of motherhood wage penalties in developing countries. Data from almost 130,000 women in 21 developing countries reveal a robust negative relationship between family size and female earnings. To address the endogeneity of family size, Aguero, Marks, and Raykar instrument for the number of children using in-fecundity shocks; they show that the negative relationship is causal. They find that for all women, the negative impact of children diminishes as children age. For low-skilled mothers, they find a differential impact by child's gender, with adolescent daughters increasing their mother's earnings relative to sons. Effort and selection into different types of jobs, occupations, and work intensity fully explain the family gap for low educated mothers; these variables account for two-thirds of the gap for women with secondary education or more.

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