Parental Education and Child Health: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan

Type Working Paper
Title Parental Education and Child Health: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
Many studies have documented that parental education, especially maternal education, has a significant positive impact on child health. This study exploits a natural experiment to estimate the causal impact of education in Taiwan. In 1968, the Taiwan government extended compulsory education from six to nine years, which required all school-age children (between six and fifteen) to attend elementary school for six years and junior high school for three years. To accommodate the expected increase in enrollment in junior high schools, the government opened 140 new junior high schools, a seventypercent increase, in 1968. This education reform created the largest expansion in junior high school constructions and student enrollment in Taiwan. Our natural experiment exploits variations across cohorts in exposure to compulsory education reform and across regions in newly established school density. We estimate the impact of mother’s education on child health by using cohort and newly established school density interactions as instruments for parents’ education. Our main data are annual birth and death certificates from 1978 to 1999. Our 2SLS estimates suggest that mother’s schooling has larger effects on child health outcomes than father’s schooling. Parental schooling reduces the probability of low birthweight, very low birthweight and prematurity, but has no significant impact in lowering neonatal, infant and postneonatal mortality.

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