The Effect of Welfare Reform on Prenatal Care and Birth Weight

31 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2003 Last revised: 12 Sep 2021

See all articles by Robert Kaestner

Robert Kaestner

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Won Chan Lee

Abt Associates, Inc.

Date Written: June 2003


Welfare reform has resulted in a dramatic decline in welfare caseloads and some have claimed that a significant number of low-income women may be without health insurance as a result. The loss of insurance may reduce low-income, pregnant women's health care utilization, and this may adversely affect infant health. Welfare reform also may affect healthcare utilization and health of pregnant women and infants because of welfare-induced changes in family disposable income, time available for health investments, and levels of stress. In this paper we examine the effect of welfare reform on prenatal care utilization and birth weight of low-educated women and their infants. We find that a 50 percent reduction in the caseload, which is similar to that which occurred in the 1990s, is associated with a zero to seven percent decrease in first trimester prenatal care; a zero to five percent decrease in the number of prenatal care visits; and a zero to 10 percent increase in low birth weight.

Suggested Citation

Kaestner, Robert and Kaestner, Robert and Lee, Won Chan, The Effect of Welfare Reform on Prenatal Care and Birth Weight (June 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9769, Available at SSRN:

Robert Kaestner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

5 Hanover Square 16th floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Won Chan Lee

Abt Associates, Inc. ( email )

55 Wheeler Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-1168
United States

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