Friday, June 29, 2012

Study Connects Mother's Past Athletic Participation to Health of Baby

This study in the Journal of Labor Economics by UC Davis's Lisa Schulkind suggest that whether a mother had access to athletic opportunities has an affect on her babies' health, and that this benefit is particularly strong for black women compared to white women. 

In the researcher's own words:

I find that maternal athletic participation is an important determinant of infant health, as measured in the Vital Statistics Natality Files. The infants born to women who had access to greater athletic opportunities as teenagers are healthier at birth. High school athletic participation rates for girls increased from 5% in 1970 to 24% by the end of the decade, and I find that an increase of this size results in a 6% decrease in low birthweight infants (<2500 grams) and an 8% decrease in the incidence of very low birthweight infants (<1500 grams). I find little evidence that increased education or a change in observed behavior during pregnancy is the primary driver. At the same time, I do find evidence that selection into motherhood is affected.

When examined separately, the magnitudes of the estimated infant health effects are smaller for white women, but larger for black women. This difference likely reflects the fact that the black adolescents who participated in athletics as a result of Title IX are more disadvantaged, and have more to gain, than their white counterparts. In fact, the disparity in family background between black and white athletes is even larger than for non-athletes.