Typically Unobserved Variables (Tuvs) and Selection into Prenatal Inputs: Implications for Estimating Infant Health Production Functions

52 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2006 Last revised: 21 Apr 2021

See all articles by Nancy E. Reichman

Nancy E. Reichman

Rutgers University, New Brunswick - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Hope Corman

Rider University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kelly Noonan

Rider University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Dhaval Dave

Bentley University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - NY Office

Date Written: February 2006

Abstract

We examine the extent to which infant health production functions are sensitive to model specification and measurement error. We focus on the importance of typically unobserved but theoretically important variables (TUVs), other non-standard covariates (NSCs), input reporting, and characterization of infant health. The TUVs represent wantedness, taste for risky behavior, and maternal health endowment. The NSCs include father and family structure characteristics. We estimate effects of prenatal drug use, prenatal cigarette smoking, and first trimester prenatal care on birth weight, low birth weight, and a measure of abnormal infant health conditions. We compare estimates using self-reported inputs versus input measures that combine information from medical records and self-reports. We find that TUVs and NSCs are significantly associated with both inputs and outcomes, but that excluding them from infant health production functions does not appreciably affect the input estimates. However, using self-reported inputs leads to overestimated effects of inputs, particularly prenatal care, on outcomes, and using a direct measure of infant health does not always yield input estimates similar to those when using birth weight outcomes. The findings have implications for research, data collection, and public health policy.

Suggested Citation

Reichman, Nancy E. and Corman, Hope and Noonan, Kelly and Dave, Dhaval, Typically Unobserved Variables (Tuvs) and Selection into Prenatal Inputs: Implications for Estimating Infant Health Production Functions (February 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=881238

Nancy E. Reichman

Rutgers University, New Brunswick - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School ( email )

97 Paterson Street
Room 435
New Brunswick, NJ 08903
United States

Hope Corman (Contact Author)

Rider University ( email )

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Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
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609-895-5559 (Phone)
609-896-5304 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Kelly Noonan

Rider University ( email )

2083 Lawrenceville Road
Lawrenceville Township, NJ 08648
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dhaval Dave

Bentley University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Waltham, MA 02452-4705
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - NY Office

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