The Technology of Birth: Is it Worth it?

53 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2000 Last revised: 14 Oct 2010

See all articles by David M. Cutler

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Ellen Meara

Harvard Medical School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 1999

Abstract

We evaluate the costs and benefits of increased medical spending for low birth weight infants. Lifetime spending on low birth weight babies increased by roughly $40,000 per birth between 1950 and 1990. The health improvements resulting from this have been substantial. Infant mortality rates fell by 72 percent over this time period, largely due to improved care for premature births. Considering both length and quality of life, we estimate the rate of return for care of low birth weight infants at over 500 percent. Although prenatal care and influenza shots are more cost effective than neonatal care, this is significantly more cost effective than other recent innovations such as coronary artery bypass surgery, treatment of severe hypertension, or routine pap smears for women aged 20-74. We conclude that the answer to the question posed in this paper is a resounding 'Yes'.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M. and Meara, Ellen, The Technology of Birth: Is it Worth it? (October 1999). NBER Working Paper No. w7390. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=193777

David M. Cutler (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Ellen Meara

Harvard Medical School ( email )

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United States
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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