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Metropolitan Economic Decline and Infant Mortality due to Unintentional Injury

  • Author(s): Bruckner, Tim A.
  • et al.

Public health professionals assert that parents could prevent a substantial portion of infant mortality due to unintentional injury (IMUI) by creating a safe environment for the infant. Examples of safe parenting behaviors include attending to a bathing infant, properly securing a child safety seat in a motor vehicle, and removing soft pillows from a crib. The contraction of regional economies, an ambient phenomenon previously reported to affect salutary behaviors, may distract parents from these routine infant monitoring tasks. I test this distraction hypothesis that the monthly incidence of IMUI will vary inversely with the performance of the economy. I retrieve economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and use data from the Birth Cohort File on 2 618 752 infants in all 26 metropolitan areas of California. Results support the hypothesis in that a one percent decline in employed persons coincides with an eight percent increase of IMUI in that month. Findings remain robust to control for individual covariates that could confound observed associations. I discuss my findings in relation to the literature concerned with parental distraction, describe other mechanisms through which the economy may affect IMUI, and recommend further investigation.

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