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Sociological study links state tax credit programs to higher birth weight
Date:8/2/2010

WASHINGTON, DC, August 2, 2010 Relieving poverty during pregnancy can reduce the incidence of low- birth-weight babies and may help break the succession of childhood poor health, a study published in the August 2010 issue of the American Sociological Review (ASR) has found.

How healthy a baby is at birth can set the stage for later life outcomes such as IQ, education, and adult health, according to the study led by Kate Strully, a professor of sociology and epidemiology at the University at Albany. Babies born to poor mothers frequently weigh less at birth than those born to middle class and wealthier mothers. Lower-birth-weight babies, particularly those under 5.5 pounds, are at higher risk of dying in the first year of life. They are less likely to excel academically and obtain high school degrees. As adults, they earn less than adults who as babies were larger at birth and are at risk of reproducing the cycle of inequality over generations.

In the study, titled "Effects of Prenatal Poverty on Infant Health: State Earned Income Tax Credits and Birth Weight," the researchers tested whether access to state anti-poverty programs diminished the occurrence of low-birth-weight, at-risk babies. In particular, the authors used the recently expanded, state-based Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) programs to determine whether improved income in single mothers suggested improved prenatal health, higher birth weights, and reduced maternal smoking. The EITC, the tax credit programs that supplement the incomes of low-wage workers, comprise the largest anti-poverty plans in the United States, and in many states have supplanted traditional welfare programs.

The study's authors found evidence that participation in state EITC is directly linked to higher birth weights, including reducing chances that a mother smoked during pregnancy.

"The EITC reduces poverty for millions of families each year. But, we know very little about how it is
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Contact: Daniel Fowler
fowler@asanet.org
202-527-9891
American Sociological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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