April 14, 2016
Janet Currie of Princeton University and Anna Aizer of Brown University, Organizers

David Figlio, Northwestern University and NBER; Claudio Persico, Northwestern University; and Jeffrey Roth, University of Florida

Inequality before Birth: The Developmental Consequences of Environmental Toxins

Jason M. Lindo, Texas A&M University and NBER, and Analisa Packham, Texas A&M University

How Much Can Expanding Access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives Reduce Teen Birth Rates? (NBER Working Paper No. 21275)

Given that over three-quarters of teen births are unintended at conception and that approximately half of those births are to teens using contraception, many have advocated for encouraging the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), which are more effective at preventing pregnancy than more commonly used contraceptives. Lindo and Packham estimate the degree to which expanding access to LARCs can reduce teen birth rates by analyzing Colorado's Family Planning Initiative, the first large-scale policy intervention to expand access to LARCs in the United States. Using difference-in-differences, triple differences, and synthetic control approaches, they find that the $23M program reduced the teen birth rate in counties with clinics receiving funding by 4.6–7.9 percent over four years. These effects were concentrated in the second through fourth years of the program and in counties with relatively high rates of poverty.

Adriana Kugler, Georgetown University and NBER, and Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, Dalhousie University

Intergenerational Persistence of Health in the US: Do Immigrants Get Healthier as they Assimilate? (NBER Working Paper No. 21987)

It is well known that a substantial part of income and education is passed on from parents to children, generating substantial persistence in socio-economic status across generations. In this paper, Akbulut-Yuksel and Kugler examine whether another form of human capital, health, is also largely transmitted from generation to generation, contributing to limited socio-economic mobility. Using data from the NLSY, they first present new evidence on intergenerational transmission of health outcomes in the U.S., including weight, height, body mass index (BMI), asthma and depression for both natives and immigrants. The researchers show that both native and immigrant children inherit a prominent fraction of their health status from their parents, and that, on average, immigrants experience higher persistence than natives in weight and BMI. The authors also find that mothers' education decreases children's weight and BMI for natives, while single motherhood increases weight and BMI for both native and immigrant children. Finally, the researchers find that the longer immigrants remain in the U.S., the less intergenerational persistence there is and the more immigrants look like native children. Unfortunately, the more generations immigrant families remain in the U.S., the more children of immigrants resemble natives' higher weights, higher BMI and increased propensity to suffer from asthma.

Ozkan Eren, Louisiana State University, and Naci Mocan, Louisiana State University and NBER

Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles

Ludovica Gazze, MIT

Little Lead Soldiers: Lead Poisoning and Public Health

Lead poisoning has long-lasting consequences on children's health, as well as on their cognitive and non-cognitive abilities. Gazze exploits state-level abatement mandates to study the effects of mitigating lead-paint hazards on several public health outcomes in a difference-in-differences framework. Abatement mandates reduce the rate of elevated blood lead levels by 29%. Moreover, the mandates decrease the rate of enrollment in special education in exposed cohorts by 8.1%, indicating a reduction in the number of children with disabilities. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that this decrease in the rate of enrollment in special education induces savings between $17.5 and $111 million per state-cohort on average, while the increased lifetime earnings from the reduction in blood lead levels could lead to increased tax revenues in the order of $2.8 million per state-cohort on average. However, the reduction in special education enrollment does not appear to be reflected in improvements in educational outcomes, as Gazze finds no evidence that average fourth-grade test scores and disciplinary actions change with the mandates.

Alan Barreca, Tulane University and NBER; Olivier Deschenes, University of California at Santa Barbara and NBER; and Melanie E. Guldi, University of Central Florida

Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates (NBER Working Paper No. 21681)

Barreca, Deschenes, and Guldi estimate the effects of temperature shocks on birth rates in the United States between 1931 and 2010. To account for shifts in conception month, the researchers' approach allows for presumably random variation in the distribution of daily temperatures to affect birth rates up to 24 months into the future. They find that additional days above 80°F cause a large decline in birth rates approximately 8 to 10 months later. The initial decline is followed by a partial rebound in births over the next few months implying that populations can mitigate some of the fertility cost of temperature shocks with shifts in conception month. The researchers present novel evidence that hot weather harms fertility via reproductive health as opposed to sexual activity. Based on the analysis of historical changes in the temperature-fertility relationship, the authors conclude air conditioning could be used to substantially offset the fertility costs of high temperatures.

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