Environment and Infant Health
The papers in this panel focus on the interplay between prenatal care, environment, birth outcomes, and childhood health. The first two papers examine maternal and infant health in Taiwan, and the third one studies the childhood obesity issue in China. “The Benefits of Prenatal Care: Evidence from the SARS Epidemic in Taiwan” estimates the causal relationship between prenatal care and birth outcomes, using the variation in prenatal care visits within a given social group generated by the 2003 SARS epidemic in Taiwan. The paper finds that prenatal care significantly lowers the probabilities of birth complication, low birth weight, and very low birth weight. “Dust Storms and Birth Outcomes: Evidence from Taiwan” examines the in utero exposure to a variety of pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, and SO2) on birth outcomes in Taiwan, using one unique source of exogenous variation in the local pollution generated by northeasterly winds that transport pollutants originating from China to Taiwan. The authors use the relative locations to the pathways of the northeasterly winds to proxy the levels of exposure to air pollution, and find a significant negative effect of in utero exposure to air pollution on birth outcomes. “The Role of Active Transportation to School on Childhood Obesity Prevention in China” examines the association between the active transportation to school and schoolchildren’s obesity. The results suggest that walking or biking to school only lowers the incidence of being obese for children who attend local community schools, but not for those whose schools are outside their communities.