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Research Spotlight: Mevlude Akbulut‑Yuksel

Posted by Department of Economics on April 2, 2024 in News

“Exposure to Economic Distress during Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes,” published in 2024 in Journal of Labor Research (with Seyit Cilasun, Erdal Tekin and Belgi Turan).

Economic recessions pose significant challenges with far-reaching and long-lasting effects, particularly on vulnerable populations. Among these groups, infants born in emerging and developing countries are especially susceptible to the consequences of economic turmoil.

This vulnerability is often compounded by limited access to healthcare and weaker welfare safety net systems, which can exacerbate their vulnerability. The stress and anxiety resulting from financial insecurity and uncertainty can also have detrimental effects on maternal and infant health.

Furthermore, recessions often precipitate an increase in poverty, which, in turn, is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes for pregnant women and infants. These consequences encompass malnutrition and an elevated susceptibility to infectious diseases.

In this study, we investigate the impact of the 2008-2009 economic recession in Turkey on birth outcomes, exploring the crisis as a natural experiment.

Our methodology leverages the variation in the crisis's intensity across provinces, as indicated by provincial GDP levels across birth cohorts. Analyzing the birth history data from the 2008 and 2013 Demographic Health Surveys, we demonstrate that the economic turmoil adversely affected birthweight and other birth outcomes.

Notably, our analysis reveals that children of mothers from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as indicated by educational attainment, are disproportionately affected by economic fluctuations. This disparity suggests that the detrimental effects on birth outcomes during economic downturns may stem from financial constraints encountered by mothers with lower socio-economic status.

Additionally, we explore changes in fertility and abortion practices in response to economic pressures, examining variations across different maternal demographics. Our findings indicate a significant role for selective fertility in linking the economic crisis to birth outcomes, with a noticeable reduction in childbirth rates during the economic downturn, particularly in less affluent provinces.

Concurrently, there was a decrease in abortion rates, suggesting a broader shift in reproductive behavior during times of economic hardship. These outcomes emphasize the critical need to understand economic crises' effects on infant health and to implement targeted interventions for protecting vulnerable groups, aiming to lessen socio-economic disparities and their adverse effects on infant well-being


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