The Effect of Welfare Reform on Prenatal Care and Birth Weight

Robert Kaestner, Won Chan Lee

NBER Working Paper No. 9769
Issued in June 2003
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Children

Welfare reform has resulted in a dramatic decline in welfare caseloads and some have claimed that a significant number of low-income women may be without health insurance as a result. The loss of insurance may reduce low-income, pregnant women's health care utilization, and this may adversely affect infant health. Welfare reform also may affect healthcare utilization and health of pregnant women and infants because of welfare-induced changes in family disposable income, time available for health investments, and levels of stress. In this paper we examine the effect of welfare reform on prenatal care utilization and birth weight of low-educated women and their infants. We find that a 50 percent reduction in the caseload, which is similar to that which occurred in the 1990s, is associated with a zero to seven percent decrease in first trimester prenatal care; a zero to five percent decrease in the number of prenatal care visits; and a zero to 10 percent increase in low birth weight.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9769

Published: Kaestner, Robert and Won Chan Lee. “The Effect of Welfare Reform on Prenatal Care and Birth Weight.” Health Economics 14, 5 (2005): 497-511. citation courtesy of

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