The Health Impacts of Hospital Delivery Practices
Hospital treatment practices vary widely, often with little connection to the medical needs of patients. We assess the impact of these differences in the context of childbirth. We focus on low-risk first births, where c-section rates vary enormously across hospitals, and where policymakers have focused much of their attention in calls for reducing unnecessary c-sections. We find that proximity to hospitals with high c-section rates leads to more cesarean deliveries, fewer vaginal births after prolonged labor, and higher average Apgar scores. Infants born in these hospitals are less likely to be readmitted in the year after birth, but more likely to visit the emergency department for a respiratory-related problem. They also have lower mortality rates, driven by a reduction in the joint probability of prolonged labor and subsequent death. A stylized cost benefit analysis suggests that re-allocating births to high c-section hospitals could lead to net social benefits.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25986