Family cash transfers in childhood and birthing persons and birth outcomes later in life

Much literature in the US documents an intergenerational transmission of birthing person and perinatal morbidity in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. A separate line of work indicates that family cash transfers may improve life chances of low-income families well into adulthood. By exploiting a quasi-random natural experiment of a large family cash transfer among a southeastern American Indian (AI) tribe in rural North Carolina, we examine whether a “perturbation” in socioeconomic status during childhood improves birthing person/perinatal outcomes when they become parents themselves. We acquired birth records on 6805 AI and non-AI infants born from 1995 to 2018. Regression methods to examine effect modification tested whether the birthing person's American Indian (AI) status and exposure to the family cash transfer during their childhood years corresponds with improvements in birthing person and perinatal outcomes. Findings show an increase in age at childbearing (coef: 0.15 years, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.05, 0.25) and a decrease in pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI; coef: −0.42, 95% CI: −0.76, −0.09) with increased duration of cash transfer exposure during childhood. The odds of large-for-gestational age at delivery, as well as mean infant birthweight, is also reduced among AI births whose birthing person had relatively longer duration of exposure to the cash transfer. We, however, observe no relation with other birthing person/perinatal outcomes (e.g., tobacco use during pregnancy, preterm birth). In this rural AI population, cash transfers in one generation correspond with improved birthing person and infant health in the next generation.