NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Race and Pregnancy Outcomes in the Twentieth Century: A Long-Term Comparison

Dora L. Costa

NBER Working Paper No. 9593
Issued in March 2003
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Children

Differentials between blacks and whites in birth weights and prematurity and stillbirth rates have been persistent over the entire twentieth century. Differences in prematurity rates explain a large proportion of the black-white gap in birth weights both among babies attended by Johns Hopkins physicians in the early twentieth century and babies in the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey. In the early twentieth century untreated syphilis was the primary observable explaining differences in black-white prematurity and stillbirth rates. Today the primary observable explaining differences in prematurity rates is the low marriage rate of black women. Maternal birth weight accounts for 5-8 percent of the gap in black-white birth weights in the recent data, suggesting a role for intergenerational factors. The Johns Hopkins data also illustrate the value of breast-feeding in the early twentieth century -- black babies fared better than white babies in terms of mortality and weight gain during the first ten days of life spent in the hospital largely because they were more likely to be breast-fed.

download in pdf format
   (147 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9593

Published: Costa, Dora L. "Race And Pregnancy Outcomes In The Twentieth Century: A Long-Term Comparison," Journal of Economic History, 2004, v64(4,Dec), 1056-1086. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Costa w6313 Unequal at Birth: A Long-Term Comparison of Income and Birth Weight
Mancall, Rosenbloom, and Weiss h0126 Conjectural Estimates of Economic Growth in the Lower South, 1720 to 1800
Gyourko w14708 Understanding Commercial Real Estate: Just How Different from Housing Is It?
Thomasson and Treber w10873 From Home to Hospital: The Evolution of Childbirth in the United States, 1927-1940
Borjas and Katz w11281 The Evolution of the Mexican-Born Workforce in the United States
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us