Study Finds Health Improvement in Babies Born to Disadvantaged Mothers

A new study by Anna Aizer of Brown University and Janet Curie of Princeton University finds that despite increasing economic inequality in the United States, the rate of low birth weight babies among disadvantaged mothers has declined in recent years while the rate of low birth weight babies among mothers from higher income groups has remained about the same. Lower birth weight babies tend to have more health and development problems as they get older.

The authors conclude that public programs and policies over the past 20 years have resulted in more women receiving the health care, nutrition, and education needed to have a healthly pregnancy and a healthy baby. Among the programs the authors believe are having a positive impact are the Nurse/Family Partnership, the Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Educational programs about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs during pregnancy and the importance of prenatal care and nutrition undoubtedly have had a positive impact. The authors also state that efforts to control pollution may have had a positive impact on mothers and babies in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Dr. Aizer, an associate professor of economics at Brown University, hopes to continue the research to determine which programs are the most effective. “From a policy perspective, you really do need to know where to put your money,” she advises. “It’s more nuanced than just one program being more effective than another. It’s a matter of getting a handle on which of these policies is most effective and for which types of moms.”

Dr. Aizer has been on the faculty at Brown University since 2003. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts and holds a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

The article, “The Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Maternal Disadvantage and Health at Birth,” was published in a special issue of Science. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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