Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Back to School: Increases in Maternal Education and Infant Health

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:30 AM
Tuttle North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Christina LiCalsi, American Institutes for Research and David Figlio, Northwestern University
Approximately half of low-income mothers attend school after the birth of their children. Despite this, research almost exclusively examines associations between maternal education and child outcomes using cross-sectional measures. Thus, although maternal education is one of the strongest predictors of children’s health, we know little about whether increases in mothers’ education at the individual level result in improvements in the health of their children. In this study we examine the effect of mothers acquiring additional schooling on subsequent infants’ health at birth using natality records covering the universe of births in the state of Florida between 1994 and 2002. In order to account for the endogeneity of acquiring additional education, we use data on the location of colleges in the state of Florida to instrument for additional education. OLS models controlling for time-invariant maternal characteristics find that increases in mothers’ education are associated with improvements in subsequent infants’ health among younger, less educated, and unmarried mothers. Improvements in smoking behavior and prenatal care indicate that healthier behaviors may be a pathway through which education is affecting infant health. IV analyses do not find a statistically significant effect of additional education on subsequent infant health, but do find improvements in smoking behavior.