The effects of school desegregation on infant health

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Abstract

This paper examines the effects of school desegregation on infant health using birth certificate data from 1970 to 2002 and a multiple difference-in-differences approach that exploits variation in the timing of desegregation across counties. Using cohort fixed effects and county fixed effects, I find that among black mothers in Southern regions, school desegregation reduces preterm births by 1.7 percentage points. These results are robust to county-specific cohort trends, county-specific year trends, and state-specific cohort fixed effects. In addition, school desegregation increases maternal education and prenatal care in the first trimester and decreases the likelihood of the child having a teenage father. These may be important pathways to improved infant health. This paper adds to the growing literature on the importance of school desegregation in areas beyond academic achievement.

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