Birth Outcome Production Functions in the U.S.
This paper contains the first infant health production functions that simultaneously consider the effects of a variety of inputs on race-specific neonatal mortality rates. These inputs include the use of prenatal care, neonatal intensive care, abortion, Federally subsidized organized family planning clinics, maternal and infant care projects, community health centers, and the WIC program. The empirical analysis is based on a cross section of U.S. counties in 1977, and the incidence of low birth weight (2,500 grams or less) is employed as an intermediate outcome. This allows us to examine the extent to which prenatal inputs operate directly on neonatal mortality and also allows us to examine their indirect effects on mortality rates through low birth weight. Since mothers with poor endowed birth outcomes will attempt to offset these unfavorable prospects by utilizing more health inputs, major emphasis is placed on two-stage least squares estimatesof the production function. Our results underscore the qualitative and quantitative importance of abortion, prenatal care, neonatal intensive care,and the WIC program in black and white birth outcomes.