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Monday, June 27, 2011

Health Inequality at Birth

An implication of recent research is that "stricter environmental regulation would benefit low-income children in particular":

Born to Lose: Health Inequality at Birth, by Nancy Folbre: In an imaginary world of equal opportunity we would all be free to choose our own economic future. In reality, many children in the United States are born to lose, suffering health disadvantages at birth that reduce their likelihood of economic success.
Epidemiologists and economists have long agreed that low birth weight is an important, albeit approximate, predictor of future health problems. A wealth of new economic research ... shows that it is also an approximate predictor of future earnings problems, with statistical effects almost as strong as children’s test scores. ...
In the current American Economic Review, Janet Currie ... summarizes recent findings and points out that children of black mothers who dropped out of high school are three times as likely as children of white college-educated mothers to suffer low birth weight.
Many of the mechanisms that underlie this inequality are linked to characteristics of the physical environment, such as exposure to environmental toxins. ... Professor Currie’s research shows that black and Latino children are significantly more likely than white children to be born to mothers living in proximity to such hazards, supporting arguments long made by environmental justice advocates. ...
[An] important policy implication is that stricter environmental regulation would benefit low-income children in particular. Professor Currie has taken part in research showing that reductions in the release of three toxicants (cadmium, toluene, and epichlorohydrin) from 1988 to 1999 account for a 3.9 percent reduction in infant mortality over that time. ...
Yet many children in the United States live, play or go to school in areas with dangerously poor air quality...
Professor Currie herself tends to emphasize the pricing problem. As she put it: “Factories dump toxic releases into the atmosphere but don’t pay the cost of pollution. There would be less harm to the children who ingest the toxins if the factories had to bear the cost.”
Changes would happen even more quickly if the chief executives of these companies — and their children — had to bear the cost. But these adults are free to choose where to live and what to breathe. And their children are, for the most part, born to win.

    Posted by on Monday, June 27, 2011 at 07:56 PM in Economics | Permalink  Comments (17)


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