Saving Babies: The Contribution of Sheppard-Towner to the Decline in Infant Mortality in the 1920s
From 1922 to 1929, the Sheppard-Towner Act provided matching grants to states to fund maternal and infant care education initiatives. We examine the effects of this public health program on infant mortality. States engaged in different types of activities, allowing us to examine whether different interventions had differential effects on mortality. Interventions that provided one-on-one contact and opportunities for follow-up care, such as home visits by public health nurses, reduced infant deaths more than classes and conferences. Overall, we estimate that Sheppard-Towner activities can account for 9 to 21 percent of the decline in infant mortality over the period.
The authors thank seminar participants at the 2011 Cliometric Society meetings, the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and Chapman University. The authors assume all responsibility for any errors or omissions. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“Saving Babies: The Impact of Public Health Education Programs on Infant Mortality.” (with Carolyn Moehling). Demography, 51(2), April 2014, 367-386.