|Florencia Torche||Keynote Address||09/07||14:45 BST||
The COVID pandemic has shifted many dimensions of population welfare. We study the implications for infant health, through which the pandemic could have lasting, intergenerational effects. We explore a puzzling pattern: At the individual level, COVID infection during pregnancy has been linked with decline in infant health. Yet at the population level, infant health improved with the arrival of the pandemic. We consider the coexistence of these patterns by investigating how they intersect with socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequality using administrative data. We find evidence that the trends in infant health represent two different manifestations of prevailing dimensions of social inequality. The population improvement in infant health that accompanied the pandemic was limited to advantaged women and occurred early in the pandemic. By contrast, the risk of COVID infection during pregnancy was highest among disadvantaged women; this infection risk translated into a decline in infant health for this population that occurred late in the pandemic and that would have been missed at the aggregate level because it was not of a sufficient magnitude to alter population trends. The COVID pandemic is expected to exacerbate inequality in multiple ways. Our findings suggest a particularly concerning and enduring pathway: the legacy of prenatal exposure to a highly unequal pandemic environment.
New and Old Inequalities in Infant Health During COVID