Economic Contraction and Birth Outcomes: A Review
Claire Margerison Zilko, University of California, Berkeley
Economic contraction may affect gestation via psychosocial stress or resource loss. This review assesses the quantity, validity, and consistency of empirical evidence examining economic contraction and birth outcomes. Articles examining economic change at either the aggregate or individual level and birth weight, length of gestation, neonatal mortality, and the secondary sex ratio were identified, organized by level of analysis and birth outcome, and evaluated for internal and external validity. One individual-level study reported a strong association between shift to inadequate employment and decreased birth weight. Of seven aggregate-level studies on birth weight, five exhibited moderate to strong validity but reported inconsistent findings. Findings from five studies examining rates of neonatal mortality reported inconsistent findings. Three of four studies reported a reduced secondary sex ratio following economic contraction. Associations between economic contraction and birth outcomes remain speculative. Future research should develop a consensus on methodology and examine individual-level birth outcome data.