Do Mother-Daughter Similarities in Human Capital and Nonmarital Birth Status Explain Intergenerational Linkages in Infant Health Outcomes?

Jennifer Buher Kane, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Prior research demonstrates intergenerational (mother-daughter) similarities in infant health outcomes (e.g., having a low birth weight, or preterm infant), but finds that less than half of this association can be attributed to genetic or biological explanations. Little research tests what features of the environment might comprise the remaining proportion. Using a population-based sample of young women (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 Cohort) and their children (Children of the NLSY79), this study tests a variety of potential environmental explanations. Structural equation models indicate that mother-daughter similarities in birth weight are partly spurious in that intergenerational transmissions of educational attainment and sociobehavioral modeling accounted for half of the mother-daughter similarity in the risk of LBW when subgroups of non-poor and poor women were compared, and partially accounted for the mother-daughter similarity in birth weight (adjusted for preterm birth status). Importantly, the effect of education also operated indirectly through nonmarital birth status.

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Presented in Session 169: Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Mortality