Cyclical unemployment and infant health

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This study provides evidence on the effect of cyclical unemployment on infant health. We match individual-level data from a detailed survey of mothers and their children in Memphis, TN, with 5-year average census-tract unemployment rates from the American Community Survey. Our findings indicate that a one percentage point increase in the local unemployment rate is associated with a statistically significant increase in the probability of having a low birthweight baby (a baby weighing less than 2500 grams). We also find evidence of a statistically significant decrease in gestational age. These effects are concentrated among infants born to mothers without a college education and into households earning less than $25,000 a year.

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