Maternal Stress and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Siblings

48 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2012 Last revised: 4 May 2022

See all articles by Anna Aizer

Anna Aizer

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Laura Stroud

Brown Medical School - Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine; The Miriam Hospital

Stephen Buka

Brown University - Department of Epidemiology

Date Written: September 2012

Abstract

We study how maternal stress affects offspring outcomes. We find that in-utero exposure to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol negatively affects offspring cognition, health and educational attainment. These findings are based on comparisons between siblings which limits variation to short-lived shocks and controls for unobserved differences between mothers that could bias estimates. Our results are consistent with recent experimental results in the neurobiological literature linking exogenous exposure to stress hormones in-utero with declines in offspring cognitive, behavioral and motor development. Moreover, we find that not only are mothers with low levels of human capital characterized by higher and more variable cortisol levels, but that the negative impact of elevated cortisol is greater for them. These results suggest that prenatal stress may play a role in the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

Suggested Citation

Aizer, Anna and Stroud, Laura and Buka, Stephen, Maternal Stress and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Siblings (September 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18422, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2154100

Anna Aizer (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States
401-863-3836 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Laura Stroud

Brown Medical School - Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine ( email )

Providence, RI 02912
United States

The Miriam Hospital

164 Summit Avenue
Providence, RI 02906
United States

Stephen Buka

Brown University - Department of Epidemiology ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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