The link between birth outcomes and economic downturns

A study of birth outcomes suggests black and less educated mothers are more strongly affected by economic downturns
Published: 04.19.2019 Updated: 01.16.2020

Are recessions good or bad for babies’ health? In a comprehensive analysis using data for virtually all children born between 1976 and 2016, Noelke et al. find that economic downturns are hazardous if mothers are exposed to their adverse effects during the first trimester of pregnancy. During the second and third trimester, however, protective effects of downturns dominate.

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During the first trimester of pregnancy, a one percentage point increase in state unemployment increases preterm birth rates, but during the second and third trimesters, unemployment has a protective effect, bringing preterm birth rates down.

Clemens Noelke
Clemens Noelke
Research Director
Headshot of Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Director, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
headshot of expert Theresa Osypuk
Theresa Osypuk
Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota