Empirical essays on health care for children and families
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This dissertation consists of three empirical essays investigating different aspects of health care for children and families. The first essay examines the effectiveness of adherence to American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for preventive pediatric health care. Using a national longitudinal sample of children age two years and younger, we investigate whether compliance with prescribed periodic well-child care visits has beneficial effects on child health. We find that increased compliance improves child health. In particular, higher compliance lowers future risks of fair or poor health, of some history of a serious illness and of having a health limitation. The second essay examines child health care utilization in relation to maternal labor supply. We test the hypothesis that working-mothers trade off the advantages of greater income against the disadvantages of less time for other valuable tasks, such as seeking health care for their children. This tradeoff may result in positive, negative, or no net impacts on child health investment. We estimate health care demand regressions that include separate variables for mother’s labor supply and her labor income. Our results indicate that higher maternal work hours reduce child health care visits; higher maternal earnings increase them. In addition, wage-employment, as opposed to self-employment, is detrimental to child health investment. A further finding is that preventive care demand for younger children is less sensitive to maternal time and income changes. We also find that detrimental time effects dominate beneficial income effects. The third essay studies intra-household resource allocation as it pertains to its demand for preventive medical care. We test the income-pooling hypothesis of the common preference model by using individual specific medical care consumption data and present evidence on the allocation of household resources to the medical needs of the child, husband and wife. Our results are in line with the findings of previous studies that emphasize the ongoing importance of the traditional gender role of woman as the primary caregiver. We find that the resources of the wife have a greater positive impact on child’s and her own preventive care demand than does the resources of the husband. In contrast to most studies from developing countries, we find that US families do not exhibit differential health care demand based on child gender. It is also noteworthy that the wife’s education level has a greater positive impact than that of her husband does on both the husband’s and her own preventive care utilization.