Archives for children



Good News for Child Obesity

We’ve blogged before about America’s rising obesity rate and how to fight it, but the battle may have just gotten a little easier. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows obesity rates dropping for low-income preschool children in 19 states between 2008 and 2011. From the Wall Street Journal:

The obesity analysis, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, was based on data from 11.6 million children age 2 to 4. The survey group included children eligible for federally funded programs of maternal and child health and nutrition, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as the WIC program.

The decline was greatest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the obesity rate in such children fell to 11% in 2011 from 13.6% in 2008. Drops of more than one percentage point were also seen in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Missouri, and South Dakota.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, called the results a “bright spot” and a “tipping point.”

“For the first time in a generation, we’re seeing it go in the right direction in 2- to 4-year-olds,” he said on a conference call with reporters, calling the changes “small but statistically significant.” He was quick to add, “We’re very, very far from being out of the woods.”

Of the 43 states measured, obesity rates for preschool children rose in 3 states and remained the same same in 21 states.



Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)  

This episode was inspired by a question from a reader named John Dolan-Heitlinger, who wrote the following: 

My wife has observed that in marriages where there is a son there is less chance of the husband leaving the marriage.  

I wonder if that is true.  

Thanks for your consideration. 

Read More »



Does Living With Children Make the Elderly Miserable?

A new working paper (gated) by Angus Deaton and Arthur A. Stone is called “Grandpa and the Snapper: the Wellbeing of the Elderly who Live with Children”:

Elderly Americans who live with people under age 18 have lower life evaluations than those who do not.  They also experience worse emotional outcomes, including less happiness and enjoyment, and more stress, worry, and anger.  In part, these negative outcomes come from selection into living with a child, especially selection on poor health, which is associated with worse outcomes irrespective of living conditions.  Yet even with controls, the elderly who live with children do worse.  This is in sharp contrast to younger adults who live with children, likely their own, whose life evaluation is no different in the presence of the child once background conditions are controlled for.  Parents, like elders, have enhanced negative emotions in the presence of a child, but unlike elders, also have enhanced positive emotions.  In parts of the world where fertility rates are higher, the elderly do not appear to have lower life evaluations when they live with children; such living arrangements are more usual, and the selection into them is less negative.  They also share with younger adults the enhanced positive and negative emotions that come with children.  The misery of the elderly living with children is one of the prices of the demographic transition.



Kids Attracted to Medical-Marijuana Candy?

A new paper in JAMA Pediatrics finds that a small number of children are showing up in Colorado emergency rooms having unintentionally ingested marijuana. It seems they are gobbling up their grandparents’ medical-marijuana candy. The paper is gated but Medical News Today summarizes:

As background information, the authors, from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver, explained that medical marijuana has higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than when used recreationally. They added that medical marijuana is sold in candies, soft drinks and baked goods. … There is concern that parents/grandparents may not disclose their use of medical marijuana because of the perceived stigma associated with the drug.



Does Child Abuse Rise During a Recession?

How do economic conditions affect the incidence of child abuse?  While researchers have found that poverty and child abuse are linked, there’s been no evidence that downturns increase abuse.  A new working paper (PDF; abstract) by economists Jason M. Lindo, Jessamyn Schaller, and Benjamin Hansen “addresses this seeming contradiction.” Here’s the abstract, with a key finding in bold:

Using county-level child abuse data spanning 1996 to 2009 from the California Department of Justice, we estimate the extent to which a county’s reported abuse rate diverges from its trend when its economic conditions diverge from trend, controlling for statewide annual shocks. The results of this analysis indicate that overall measures of economic conditions are not strongly related to rates of abuse. However, focusing on overall measures of economic conditions masks strong opposing effects of economic conditions facing males and females: male layoffs increase rates of abuse whereas female layoffs reduce rates of abuse. These results are consistent with a theoretical framework that builds on family-time-use models and emphasizes differential risks of abuse associated with a child’s time spent with different caregivers.



Taking on the Myths of Child Mortality

Hans Rosling, whose fantastic animated-data talks have been featured here before, has a new one about child-mortality trends.

The video was timed to coincide with the release of Bill Gates‘s 2013 Annual Letter, which notes successful health reforms in Ethiopia and the importance of quality measurements.  “[A]ny innovation — whether it’s a new vaccine or an improved seed — can’t have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it,” writes Gates. Read More »



A Health Upside of Natural Gas

A working paper (PDF; abstract) from economists Resul Cesur, Erdal Tekin, and Aydogan Ulker explores the effects of increased natural gas use on infant mortality:

In this paper, we use the variation across space and time in the expansion of natural gas infrastructure in Turkish provinces using data between 2001 and 2011. Our results indicate that the rate of increase in the use of natural gas has resulted in a significant reduction in the rate of infant mortality in Turkey. In particular, a one-percentage point increase in the rate of subscriptions to natural gas services would cause the infant mortality rate to decline by 4 percent, which could result in 348 infant lives saved in 2011 alone. These results are robust to a large number of specifications.

The authors outline two ways through which the effect may occur: Read More »



How Is Early-Childhood Intervention Like Compound Interest?

Jason Fletcher, who teaches public health at Yale, has written earlier on the connection between ADHD and crime. (The gist: “children who experience ADHD symptoms face a substantially increased likelihood of engaging in many types of criminal activities.”) He now has a new working paper called “The Effects of Childhood ADHD on Adult Labor Market Outcomes” (abstract, PDF):

While several types of mental illness, including substance abuse disorders, have been linked with poor labor market outcomes, no current research has been able to examine the effects of childhood ADHD.  As ADHD has become one of the most prevalent childhood mental conditions, it is useful to understand the full set of consequences of the illness.  This paper uses a longitudinal national sample, including sibling pairs, to show important labor market outcome consequences of ADHD.  The employment reduction is between 10-14 percentage points, the earnings reduction is approximately 33%, and the increase in social assistance is 15 points, which are larger than many estimates of the black-white earnings gap and the gender earnings gap.  A small share of the link is explained by education attainments and co-morbid health conditions and behaviors.  The results also show important differences in labor market consequences by family background and age of onset. These findings, along with similar research showing that ADHD is linked with poor education outcomes and adult crime, suggest that treating childhood ADHD can substantially increase the acquisition of human capital.

The more research of this sort that we see, the easier it is to believe the following: compound interest may indeed be the eighth wonder of the world, but early-childhood investment and intervention is probably Wonder 7.5.