Prenatal Exposure to Violence and Birth Weight in Mexico. Can Mother’s Behaviors Make a Difference?

Research from biology and psychology has shown that the prenatal period is sensitive to the environment and critical for later development. While the effects of toxins such as alcohol and nicotine on the fetus are well documented, the effect of maternal stress is more difficult to assess. The main reason is unobserved selectivity. Women who experience or report high levels of stress may be different from those who don’t in ways that affect their pregnancies, making it impossible to disentangle the effect of stress from its common correlates. The question is important because stress is widespread, stratified along socioeconomic and racial lines, and may be a central mechanism for the noxious effect of poverty or discrimination on children. We examine the effect of maternal stress and address the unobserved selectivity problem in a recent ASR article.

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The Global Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders

With an estimated 1 out of every 68 children in the US (CDC, 2014) and 1 out of every 100 children in the UK (NAS, 2014) diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), it is clear that ASD now poses a substantial health burden. Although these statistics are striking, they are taken from the top two countries producing ASD research publications. The US and the UK are two countries of many, and both are prominent developed nations—what is the global prevalence of ASD beyond the US and the UK?  As of 2012, only a few studies have investigated prevalence in middle-income countries and no prevalence estimates have been reported for low-income countries, resulting in an incomplete global prevalence figure. Continue reading

Are Suicidal Behaviors Contagious in Adolescents?

It has become increasingly obvious that suicide attempts and deaths have both social and psychological causes. Though people in general are more familiar with the idea that psychological problems, such as depression, can put someone at risk of suicide, exposure to messages about suicide through our personal relationships or through the media also can increase an individual’s vulnerability to attempting suicide by making suicide seem like more of an option. Comedian Robin Williams’ suicide – and comments made online about his tragic passing and amazing life - illustrated the tension between our seemingly-innate desire to talk about and make sense of why people take their own life and the danger that irresponsible reporting or romanticizing comments may pose. Continue reading

Does Fertility Behavior Spread Among Friends?

In the past few years there has been a growing recognition of the effect of peers on an individual’s behaviour. Recent sociological literature has shown, for instance, that friends influence each other in areas such as smoking, drinking, and how much we exercise. In our recently published paper, we examine the influence of friends on an individual’s decision to have a child. So far, research on fertility behavior has largely neglected the fact that people are embedded in social networks, thereby failing to acknowledge that couples do not make fertility choices in a vacuum.

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Mortality in the Years of Recession: Evidence from Greece

Historical evidence strongly supports that economic growth and prosperity have been associated to declining mortality rates. To reinforce this principle, infant mortality and life expectancy are widely used as living standard indicators in cross-regional comparisons. While positive economic and social developments are concretized as gains in life expectancy, the recessionary implications on mortality rates are not that straightforward. Whether severe economic downturns affect the aggregate death rates has been the focus of much research, and findings are mixed. They appear to be sensitive to the choice of country, to the time period examined, and the length and intensity of the economic downturns.

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Occupational Segregation and Persistent Labor Market Inequality Among People with Disabilities

In a September essay, I wrote about a recently published paper by myself and Michelle Maroto that sought to uncover possible reasons why the Americans with Disabilities Act had not delivered when it came to improving employment outcomes.  While we focused our attention mainly on institutional, state-level and individual characteristics over time, we noted that important supply-and-demand factors—especially occupational structures—are key to understanding barriers to the labor market, as well as poor earnings.

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Grasping the Diversity of Cohabitation: Fertility Intentions Among Cohabiters Across Europe

The rising importance of unmarried cohabitation in the demographic landscape is part of a whole array of ongoing changes in families and relationships in contemporary Europe; for example fewer people marry, more marriages end in divorce and fewer children are born than in the past. The diversity in the ways in which cohabiters view their relationship has consequences for the plans and behaviour of cohabiters in these relationships. In our recently published paper, we examine the association between different meanings of cohabitation and plans to have children.

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Did the “Americans with Disabilities Act” Help or Hurt People with Disabilities?

When Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) nearly a quarter of a century ago, many inside and outside the government saw it as the most important piece of civil rights legislation since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, since taking effect in 1992, employment among people with disabilities has declined. In 2012, just 18 percent of working age people with disabilities were employed compared to 64 percent of people without disabilities, while earnings among disabled workers have been largely stagnant over the last twenty years. People with disabilities make an average of 14,500 dollars less than persons without disabilities. It may seem perfectly reasonable to assume that the introduction of the legislation “caused” an overall decline in the economic well being of people with disabilities. However, as is often the case, the relationship between antidiscrimination legislation and labor market outcomes is far more complicated.

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Should We Call “Life Expectancy” Something Else?

The most widely used indicator of the level of mortality in any population is the life expectancy at birth. This is entirely appropriate as the measure is usually an excellent reflection of the overall mortality conditions of a given year or other period. Similar calculations can be made for life expectancy any age, but the value at birth is by far the most commonly encountered in general discussion of health and mortality.

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Why Mothers in Slums May Prefer the Informal Healthcare Sector: Lessons from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Infant and child mortality has declined dramatically across the globe in recent decades, in large part due to public health measures such as universal vaccination, better nutrition and improved health care services. However, deaths remain much higher in poor disadvantaged populations, in part, because of such issues as lower vaccination rates. A critical issue is the delay in infants obtaining skilled health services during illness. Children’s caregivers may not initially realise the seriousness of the child’s condition and as a result may not access appropriate health services. Key inhibiting factors are limited knowledge of critical symptoms and restricted access to professional advice. In addition the caregivers may lack quick and affordable access to appropriate services. Continue reading