The birthweight effects of a universal child benefit in pregnancy: evidence from England and Wales

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This paper takes advantage of a unique policy experiment in the UK to estimate the impact of paying a universal child benefit during pregnancy. Using administrative birth registrations microdata from England and Wales, I evaluate the impact of the Health in Pregnancy Grant, a universal and short-lived policy that paid the equivalent of child benefit in a lump sum to all pregnant mothers from 2009 to 2011. I exploit an arbitrary eligibility rule to implement a regression discontinuity design in the date of birth of the child. I find that the policy led to increases in mean birthweight at population level. Effects were largest for the smaller babies, youngest mothers and those living in deprived areas. My findings suggest that there are significant health returns to paying universal child benefits during pregnancy and that the potential for birthweight gains from windfall increases in income is larger than previously thought.

Revise & Resubmit, Journal of Health Economics

Latest working paper version here.

Mary Reader
Mary Reader
Research Officer

I am a Research Officer at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at The London School of Economics. My research uses quantitative methods to identify the causal effects of social and economic policies.