Twenty-Five Years After the ADA: Celebrating its Virtues and Understanding its Failures

The Americans with Disabilities Act had important impacts on improving accessibility and increasing public awareness about the struggles of people with disabilities. The ADA made the US a world leader – its language the basis for national policies in the US and the UK, as well as the UN Convention on Disability Rights.

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Beware of RCTs of Policy Pilots – The Myth of Easy Compatibility

Policy pilots are often understood to be synonymous with their evaluation. The assumption is that a government would not initiate a pilot if the intention were not to evaluate it. This conflation is most obvious in the notion of the ‘policy experiment’, a term that carries connotations of measuring effectiveness through experimental methods, specifically by using randomised controlled trials (RCTs). In English health policy discourse, with its proximity to clinical medicine, the notion of policy experimentation becomes skewed towards using pilots as a way to assess policy effectiveness in quantifiable terms through RCTs.

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Birth Order and Mortality in Sweden

Does birth order matter? Over the past hundred years, this simple question has inspired a rancorous debate. For the past ten years, however, the growing consensus has been that yes, it does matter. It is becoming increasingly clear that, relative to first borns, later born siblings within the same family have lower educational attainment (Black, Devereux and Salvanes, 2005), lower cognitive ability (Bjerkedal et al., 2007; Barclay, 2015a), and worse health in adulthood (Barclay and Myrskylä, 2014).

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On The Measurement of Slum Dwelling in Urban India

More than half the world now lives in urban areas. In many low- and middle-income countries, the speed and scale of urban growth has outpaced the provision of services, leading to a proliferation of informal settlements without access to water and sanitation, garbage collection, or security of tenure. The urbanization and concentration of poverty and deprivation in these settings is often characterized by residential crowding, exposure to environmental hazards, and social fragmentation and exclusion (Wratten, 1995) – a cluster of conditions frequently referred to with the catch-all term of “slum-dwelling.”

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How Different is a College Degree From a Spouse?

More educated individuals face substantially lower mortality rates than less educated ones. In our recent paper Pijoan-Mas and Ríos-Rull (2014), we use data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to compute expected longevity at age 50 for white males and white females of different education levels in the US (the focus on these age and race groups is because of sample sizes.) We find that the difference in expected longevity between college graduates and individuals without a high school degree is large: 6.6 years for males and 5.8 years for females.

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How has Children’s Growth Changed over Time?

The past 150 years have seen a massive improvement in the health of populations in Europe and North America. People live longer, eat larger quantities of more nutritious food, get sick less often and have better access to healthcare and medical technology. These general improvements have led to a large increase in the average height of the population: 11 cm in Britain. This large increase in height made me wonder a couple of years ago whether and how children’s growth has changed over time as well. This blog post explains what we currently know about the differences between child growth today and in the past, and why it is important to study changes in children’s growth over time.

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Prioritising Care Services: Do the Oldest Users Lose Out?

Population ageing is a major concern in most European countries. With an ageing population, people at employable age will have to provide for an increasing number of pensioners. Demands for health and care services will also increase, as older people typically have higher needs for such services. Such concerns are high on the political agenda in most European countries. What is often overlooked, however, is that older users increasingly compete with younger users over the same limited care resources. This is certainly the case in Norway, where responsibilities for care services have gradually been transferred to the local level over the past 20 years, with no national guidelines on the distribution of resources between groups of users.

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Explaining Gender Differentials in Child Mortality in India

Gender differences in child health and mortality pose a critical challenge for public health surveillance and policy in India. Recent Sample Registration System (SRS) reports indicate that female children experience higher mortality than boys. The 2012 SRS report pointed to a significant gap (9 per 1000 live births) in under-five mortality rates between males and females. However, the nature of gender differentials in child mortality is changing.

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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