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.
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 »
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 »
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.
One of the first Freakonomics Radio podcasts we made was an episode about the (surprisingly tenuous) link between obesity and health problems. A new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association finds that “Grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality.” Writing for The Daily Beast, Kent Sepkowitz explains:
Compared to people with a normal weight (a BMI less than 25), the overweight (BMI between 25 to 30) had a 6 percent lower mortality rate—and both groups had a rate about 15 percent lower than the obese, especially the very obese (BMI above 35).
The explanation for the finding is uncertain. Perhaps the pleasantly plump but not obese have an extra reserve—a literal spare tire—that confers a survival advantage should they become seriously ill, whereas the lean-iacs do not. Or maybe the thin ones were thin because of a serious illness that, in the course the various studies, killed them. Or maybe the thin ones were thin because they were chain smokers living off Scotch and potato chips. Or just maybe the occasional pig-out does soothe the soul and make for a happier, healthier individual.
(HT: Andrew Sullivan)
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “What’s Wrong With Cash for Grades?”
In it, Steve Levitt talks to Kai Ryssdal about whether it’s effective to pay kids to do well in school. Levitt, along with John List, Susanne Neckermann, and Sally Sadoff, recently wrote up a working paper (PDF here) based on their field experiments in Chicago schools. Levitt blogged about the paper earlier; here’s the Atlantic‘s take. Read More »
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It has long been thought that nearsightedness is mostly a hereditary problem, but researchers led by Ian Morgan of Australian National University say the data suggest that environment has a lot more to do with it.
Reporting in the journal Lancet, the authors note that up to 90% of young adults in major East Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, are nearsighted. The overall rate of myopia in the U.K., by contrast, is about 20% to 30%.
I watched a Law and Order SVU re-run last night, remarkably one that I hadn’t seen before. In the episode, an infant dies of measles contracted from another child whose parents refuse to vaccinate her. (Infants are not vaccinated against measles.) This is a classic case of whether concerns about potential negative externalities outweigh the desire to keep the government from dictating private behavior (vaccination). We already permit both approaches: we mandate vaccines for children to enter public school, and allow parents (as in this TV show) the choice of not vaccinating pre-schoolers. Read More »