Parental Education and Child Health: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan
51 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2007 Last revised: 13 Feb 2010
Date Written: October 2007
This paper exploits a natural experiment to estimate the causal impact of parental education on child health in Taiwan. In 1968, the Taiwanese government extended compulsory education from six to nine years. From that year through 1973, the government opened 254 new junior high schools, an 80 percent increase, at a differential rate among regions. We form treatment and control groups of women or men who were age 12 or under on the one hand and between the ages of 13 and 20 or 25 on the other hand in 1968. Within each region, we exploit variations across cohorts in new junior high school openings to construct an instrument for schooling. We employ this instrument to estimate the causal effects of mother's or father's schooling on the incidence of low birthweight and mortality of infants born to women in the treatment and control groups or the wives of men in these groups in the period from 1978 through 1999. Parents' schooling, especially mother's schooling, does indeed cause favorable infant health outcomes. The increase in schooling associated with the reform saved almost 1 infant life in 1,000 live births, resulting in a decline in infant mortality of approximately 11 percent.
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