JESS Seminar: Is the health of English babies worse in recessions?ISER Internal Seminars

This paper brings new evidence on the effect of unemployment on newborn health outcomes in England. It uses for the first time administrative data on hospital deliveries (Hospital Episodes Statistics) for the period 2003-2012 linked to data on unemployment rate measured at Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) level. In line with previous research for other developed countries, we find that an economic downturn has a positive effect on newborn health. However, when we con- sider mothers who have had at least two births, and introduce mother fixed effects the results are opposite, indicating that controlling for selection into fertility is crucial. This is particularly true for babies born to mothers who live in very deprived areas. Overall, a one-percentage point increase in the unemployment rate leads to an increase in low birth weight babies by 1.3 percent, an increase of preterm babies by 1.4 percent, and a decrease in fetal growth by 0.1 percent. We test potential mechanisms. When unemployment goes up, fertility goes down, but this decrease is less for women who live in the most deprived areas, who tend to have smaller babies and shorter pregnancies. Maternal age is not associated with a change in the unemployment rate, while the first antenatal health assessment is postponed indicating that the opportunity cost of attending prenatal care increases in a recession. Furthermore, the probability of stillbirth increases in recessions indicating that there is selection in-utero, and our main results, if nothing else, are a lower bound of the true effects. The results are robust to migration, gender specific unemployment, and potential endogeneity of the MSOA unemployment rate.

Presented by:

Elisabetta De Cao, University of Oxford (MiSoC Visitor)

Date & time:

February 14, 2018 1:00 pm - February 14, 2018 2:00 pm


2N2.4.16 ISER Large Seminar Room

Internal seminars home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest