Still 'Saving Babies'? The Impact of Child Medicaid Expansions on High School Completion Rates

18 Pages Posted: 6 May 2020

Date Written: January 2020


The decoupling of child Medicaid from the cash welfare system greatly increased access to public health insurance for low‐income children in the United States. In this paper, I show that the federally mandated public health insurance expansions of the late‐1980s and early‐1990s significantly increased the number of public high school completers in the 2000s. Using the legislated generosity of a state's child Medicaid program as a time‐varying, exogenous source of variation in a quasi‐experimental design, I find substantively large declines in the dropout rate and, importantly, large increases in traditional 4‐year graduation rates. Results for both measures are driven by Hispanic and White students, the two groups experiencing the greatest within‐group increases in eligibility due to the decoupling of child Medicaid from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. In addition, I find evidence that increases in the length of childhood years covered (e.g., through age 5 vs. through age 17) leads to greater gains in completion rates. This suggests that public health insurance coverage throughout childhood produces the largest effect.

JEL Classification: C23, H51, H52, H75, I21

Suggested Citation

Groves, Lincoln H., Still 'Saving Babies'? The Impact of Child Medicaid Expansions on High School Completion Rates (January 2020). Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 38, Issue 1, pp. 109-126, 2020, Available at SSRN: or

Lincoln H. Groves (Contact Author)

SAS Institute Inc. ( email )

100 SAS Campus Drive
Cary, NC 27513-2414
United States

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