Violence while in Utero: The Impact of Assaults During Pregnancy on Birth Outcomes

Janet Currie, Michael Mueller-Smith, Maya Rossin-Slater

NBER Working Paper No. 24802
Issued in July 2018, Revised in March 2019
NBER Program(s):The Program on Children, The Health Economics Program

Evidence about the effects of violent crime on victims is sparse, but is necessary to measure the social costs of crime and the cost-effectiveness of policy interventions in the justice system. We present new evidence about the effects of violent crime on pregnancy and infant health outcomes, using unique linked administrative data from New York City. We compare mothers who lived in a home where an assault was reported during their pregnancies to mothers who lived in a home where an assault took place shortly after the birth. We find that assaults during pregnancy significantly increase the incidence of negative birth outcomes. Our results are robust to the use of alternative control groups and to using maternal fixed effects models. Based on these impacts, we calculate that the social cost per assault during pregnancy is at least $36,857, implying a total annual cost of around $3.8 billion. Since infant health is a strong predictor of life-long well-being and women of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, violence in utero is an important potential channel for intergenerational transmission of inequality.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24802

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