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Distance to Hospital and Children's Use of Preventive Care: Is Being Closer Better, and for Whom?


  • Janet Currie,

    1. Professor, Department of Economics, University of California at Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095. Phone 1–310–206–8380, Fax 1–310–825–9528, E-mail
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  • Patricia B. Reagan

    1. Professor, Department of Economics, Ohio State University, Center for Human Resource Research, 921 Chatham Lane, Columbus, OH 43221. Phone 1–614–487–0667, Fax 1–614–442–7329, E-mail
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      We are grateful to David Cutler and Mark Duggan for helpful comments. We also thank Randy Olsen for his support of the NLSY79 geocode project. Steve Mulherin, Fernando Bosco, Chris Starrett, Kevin Dippold, and Eric Fischer provided excellent research assistance. Janet Currie thanks the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the NICHD for support under grant number R01-HD3101A2. All views expressed are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by any funding agency.


This article examines the effect of distance to hospital on preventive care among children using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth's Child-Mother file matched to data from the 1990 American Hospital Association Survey. Among central-city black children, each additional mile from the hospital is associated with a 3-percentage-point decline in the probability of having had a checkup (from a mean baseline of 74%). Moreover, the effects are similar for privately and publicly insured black children. For this group, access to providers is as important as private insurance coverage in predicting use of preventive care.