Something in the Pipe: Flint Water Crisis and Health at Birth

46 Pages Posted: 21 May 2019

See all articles by Rui Wang

Rui Wang

Department of Economics

Xi Chen

Department of Health Policy and Management; Yale University - Department of Economics; Yale University - Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies; IZA

Xun Li

Wuhan University - Department of Infectious Diseases

Abstract

Flint changed its public water source in 2014, causing severe water contamination. We estimate the effect of in utero exposure to polluted water on health at birth using the recent Flint water crisis as a natural experiment. Matching vital statistics birth records with various sources of data, we employ a Difference-in-Differences (DID) approach as well as a Synthetic Control Method (SCM) to identify its causal impact on key birth outcomes. Our results suggest that the crisis modestly increased the rate of low birth weight (LBW) by 1.1-1.8 percentage points but had little effect on length of gestation or prematurity.The effects are larger for black or less educated mothers. Children born to disadvantaged mothers demonstrated 1.2-2.0 percentage points (or 10.4-17.4 percent) and 0.2- 0.6 percentage points (or 9.5-28.6 percent) rise in LBW and VLBW, respectively. We find little evidence that the Crisis increased fetal death, suggesting that the scarring effect in utero may dominate the channel of mortality selection. These results survive a rich set of placebo and falsification tests. Finally, our results lend support to three mechanisms at work linking water contamination and birth outcomes, i.e. biological effect, maternal stress, and avoidance actions.

Keywords: water pollution, lead exposure, Flint infants, low birth weight

JEL Classification: I14, I18, Q53, Q58

Suggested Citation

Wang, Rui and Chen, Xi and Li, Xun, Something in the Pipe: Flint Water Crisis and Health at Birth. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12115. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3390103

Rui Wang (Contact Author)

Department of Economics ( email )

6823 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

Xi Chen

Department of Health Policy and Management ( email )

60 College St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Yale University - Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies ( email )

77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

HOME PAGE: http://isps.yale.edu/team/xi-chen

IZA ( email )

Xun Li

Wuhan University - Department of Infectious Diseases ( email )

Wuhan
China

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