Prenatal health and future economic success

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies

Sometimes, a correlation between two events seems almost mind boggling. Such is the case with a study in the Journal of Political Economy that argues that it is a malleable characteristic – in utero health – that most strongly indicates how well a child will fare in adulthood. Detecting delayed effects is inherently difficult, and Douglas Almond, the author, ingeniously utilized census micro data from three decades including not only birth year, but birth quarter – to analyze the adult economic outcomes of those exposed in utero to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Twenty-five million people in the United States contracted influenza during the 1918 pandemic and survived. The pandemic struck without warning and lasted only a few months, meaning that those born a few months apart had markedly different in utero conditions. Additionally, the severity of the pandemic varied widely and idiosyncratically across states with little in common economically, demographically, climatically, or geographically.

Almond found that the children of infected mothers were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and sons of infected mothers earned approximately $2,500 less per year than those who did not have fetal influenza exposure. Additionally, those who were in utero at the height of the epidemic had 20 percent higher disability rates at the age of 61.

I'm not sure I'd lay awake and ponder this correlation, but it does make a compelling case to seek appropriate prenatal care. Of course, most of you would not be reading this if you had not already done so!

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.