Income Gains, Pregnancy Related Health, and Birth Outcomes: Evidence from the Marcellus Shale Economic Boom

Tiffany Green, Assistant Professor, Population Health Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Health inequalities at birth are a key mechanism in the intergenerational transmission of health and socioeconomic status. Although income is positively correlated with infant health, as well as maternal health and health behaviors before and during pregnancy, the causal effect of income gains on infant and maternal health is unclear. In this study, we leverage a natural experiment – the boom economy in Pennsylvania created by the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale geological formation – to study whether exogenously-determined increases in area-level income impact individual-level maternal health, maternal health behaviors and birth outcomes. Using administrative data from before (2007) and after (2012) the economic boom, we apply difference-in-difference and instrumental variable methods to isolate the causal effect(s) of area-level income gains on maternal health and health behaviors (preconception weight status, adequacy of gestational weight gain, preconception smoking and prenatal smoking) and birth outcomes (birth weight, low and very low birth weight, preterm birth, and small for gestational age). These study findings have important implications for understanding how universal basic income policies could shape pregnancy-related outcomes in the United States.

Tiffany Green is an assistant professor in the departments of Population Health Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an economist and population health scientist, her goal is to understand the causes and consequences of racial/ethnic disparities in health, particularly among maternal, child, and immigrant populations. Much of her research is focused on Black women who, regardless of how much income or education they have, are most likely to die from childbirth-related complications and give birth to babies who die before they are one year old. She applies methods from economics, demography, and health services research to document and unpack the sources of these disparities.

Green received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received her BA in economics from Florida A&M University. She has published in a wide variety of peer-reviewed journals, including Economics and Human Biology, the Journal of Women’s Health and the American Journal of Public Health.

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