Infant health production functions: what a difference the data make

Authors

  • Nancy E. Reichman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
    • Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 97 Paterson St., Room 435, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Hope Corman,

    1. Department of Economics, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ, USA
    2. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Kelly Noonan,

    1. Department of Economics, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ, USA
    2. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Dhaval Dave

    1. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, USA
    2. Department of Economics, Bentley College, Waltham, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

We examine the extent to which infant health production functions are sensitive to model specification and measurement error. We focus on the importance of typically unobserved but theoretically important variables (typically unobserved variables, TUVs), other non-standard covariates (NSCs), input reporting, and characterization of infant health. The TUVs represent wantedness, taste for risky behavior, and maternal health endowment. The NSCs include father characteristics. We estimate the effects of prenatal drug use, prenatal cigarette smoking, and first trimester prenatal care on birth weight, low birth weight, and a measure of abnormal infant health conditions. We compare estimates using self-reported inputs versus input measures that combine information from medical records and self-reports. We find that TUVs and NSCs are significantly associated with both inputs and outcomes, but that excluding them from infant health production functions does not appreciably affect the input estimates. However, using self-reported inputs leads to overestimated effects of inputs, particularly prenatal care, on outcomes, and using a direct measure of infant health does not always yield input estimates similar to those when using birth weight outcomes. The findings have implications for research, data collection, and public health policy. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ancillary