Best for the Kids

Kevin Lewis

July 07, 2024

Financial Incentives for Adoption and Kin Guardianship Improve Achievement for Foster Children
David Simon et al.
NBER Working Paper, June 2024

This paper reports new evidence that giving financial rewards for adopting a child from foster care or becoming a kin guardian improves the later school performance of these children. It uses linked administrative data to examine a policy change in Minnesota. This change increased the payments to adoptive parents and kin guardians for children ages 6 and older, making them equal to what foster care payments were, but didn't raise payments as much for younger children. Difference-in-differences analysis shows that this policy of equalizing payments increased the average academic achievement of foster children by 31 percent of a standard deviation three years after their cases began. Additionally, the policy raised the total value of payments to these children by about $2,000 during this period. It also led to a 29 percent increase in the monthly chance of moving from foster care to adoption or kin guardianship, improved school stability, and reduced school suspensions. This research contributes to the limited evidence on how financial incentives can encourage adoptions and is one of the first to provide evidence of its positive effects on outcomes beyond the child welfare system.

Baby bump? Birth month, family income, and early childhood development
Katherine Engel & Dave Marcotte
Economics & Human Biology, August 2024

Federal and state laws in the U.S. provide families with babies born just before the end of the year with thousands of dollars in tax savings. Because this income windfall is realized during the first few months of a newborn’s life, we assess whether babies born in December experience developmental advantages in early childhood compared to those born right after the New Year. Using data from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we implement a regression discontinuity design that exploits variation in birth timing. We first illustrate that the tax savings received by families with end of year babies are substantial. We then show that while children born in December have a weight disadvantage at birth compared to those born in January, they have an average weight-gain advantage of between 0.7 and 1.5 pounds (0.08–0.17 standard deviations) during subsequent follow-up interviews. We also find that end-of-year babies reach early developmental milestones faster, but exhibit no advantage in memory, word recognition, or applied problem solving. This end-of-year birth developmental advantage is consistent with the identified tax savings from end-of-year births.

Did Organized Labor Induce Labor? Unionization and the American Baby Boom
Henry Downes
University of Notre Dame Working Paper, June 2024

Conventional economic theories cannot fully explain the timing, duration, and size of the American Baby Boom. I propose a new explanation: the rise of the labor movement. Union density more than tripled following the passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). To test unionization's contribution to fertility increases, I construct novel county-level estimates of union membership and exploit local variation in exposure to the NLRA shock. Union growth has positive impacts on both birth rates and completed fertility. Effects are driven primarily by wage growth, protection against adverse labor market shocks, and impacts on female labor force participation.

Fertility Beliefs and Outcomes: The Role of Relationship Status and Attractiveness
Yifan Gong et al.
NBER Working Paper, June 2024

Unique data from the Berea Panel Study provides new evidence about fertility outcomes before age 30 and beliefs about these outcomes elicited soon after college graduation. Comparing outcomes and beliefs yields a measure of belief accuracy. Individuals who are unmarried and not in relationships at age 24 are extremely optimistic about the probability of having children, while married individuals have very accurate beliefs. Novel attractiveness measures are central for understanding fertility beliefs and outcomes for females but not for males. Marriage is a mechanism that is relevant for understanding differences in beliefs, outcomes, and misperceptions across relationship and attractiveness groups.

Effects of a monthly unconditional cash transfer starting at birth on family investments among US families with low income
Lisa Gennetian et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming

How does unconditional income for families in poverty affect parental investments for their young children? Mothers in four US metropolitan areas were randomized to receive a monthly unconditional cash transfer of either $333 per month (high) or $20 per month (low) for the first several years after childbirth. During the first 3 years, high-cash gift households spent more money on child-specific goods and more time on child-specific early learning activities than the low-cash gift group. Few changes were evident in other core household expenditures. Compared with low-cash gift families, high-cash gift families reported lower rates of public benefit receipt and fewer were residing in poverty, although mean income and wealth remain low for the majority of families by year 3. No statistically significant differences were evident in mothers’ participation in paid work, children’s time in childcare or mothers’ subjective wellbeing.

School Closures and Parental Mental Health
Sumedha Gupta, Dario Salcedo & Kosali Simon
NBER Working Paper, May 2024

Schools enhance the lives of families in various ways, and one potential consequence of their closures is worsened parental well-being. We study the effects of COVID-19 pandemic school closures on parental mental health by measuring consumption of products that are often used to cope with increased stress and depression. Using a cohort based difference in difference (DID) design and commercial claims data, we find an increase in maternal anti-depressant use by 1.5%, in zip codes with above median school closures; there are no statistically significant effects for paternal antidepressant use, and we are able to rule out fairly small values. Some parents may "self-medicate" as a coping mechanism rather than seek formal medical care. Using a county based DID design and retail scanner data, we find alcohol sales increased by 2% in counties with above median school closures. Both anti-depressant prescriptions and alcohol sales returned to base line levels as in-person schooling resumed. We explore whether the burdens of school closures were disparately concentrated in minoritized communities, and find that anti-depressant and alcohol use increases were concentrated in zip codes with above median Black and Asian populations, but not in zip codes with a predominantly White or Hispanic population. Overall, these results suggest that the school system plays an important role in maintaining population mental well-being outcomes and in helping families cope with stress.

Comparison of No-Test Telehealth and In-Person Medication Abortion
Lauren Ralph et al.
Journal of the American Medical Association, forthcoming

Importance: In the US, access to medication abortion using history-based (no-test) eligibility assessment, including through telehealth and mailing of mifepristone, has grown rapidly. Additional evidence on the effectiveness and safety of these models is needed.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Prospective, observational study with noninferiority analysis. Sites included 4 abortion-providing organizations in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Virginia, and Washington from May 2021 to March 2023. Eligible patients were seeking medication abortion up to and including 70 days’ gestation, spoke English or Spanish, and were aged 15 years or older.

Results: The mean age of the participants (N = 585) was 27.3 years; most identified as non-Hispanic White (48.6%) or non-Hispanic Black (28.1%). Median (IQR) gestational duration was 45 days (39-53) and comparable between study groups (P = .30). Outcome data were available for 91.8% of participants. Overall effectiveness was 94.4% (95% CI, 90.7%-99.2%) in the no-test + mail group and 93.3% (95% CI, 88.3%-98.2%) in the in-person with ultrasonography group in adjusted models (adjusted risk difference, 1.2 [95% CI, −4.1 to 6.4]), meeting the prespecified 5% noninferiority margin. Serious adverse events included overnight hospitalization (n = 4), blood transfusion (n = 2), and emergency surgery (n = 1) and were reported by 1.1% (95% CI, 0.4%-2.4%) of participants, with 3 in the no-test + mail group, 3 in the in-person with ultrasonography group, and none in the no-test + pickup group.


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