Effects of Exposure to Local Homicides on Birthweight in Mexico: Exposure, Selectivity, and Behavioral Responses

Florencia Torche, New York University
Andres Villarreal, University of Texas at Austin

We examine the effect of local homicides on birth weight. We merge a monthly panel of Mexican births with homicide data at the municipality level. Fixed effects models are used to isolate the effect of exposure to homicides. Findings indicate that exposure to homicides does not reduce fertility and induces slight positive socioeconomic selectivity of births. Net of socioeconomic selectivity, exposure to homicides early in the pregnancy increases birth weight and reduces the incidence of low birth weight. The mechanism driving this surprising positive effect appears to be health-enhancing behaviors (particularly, increased use of prenatal care) resulting from exposure to violence. The positive effect of homicide exposure varies across SES. It is strong among low-SES women (but only those living in urban areas) and null among advantaged women. Socioeconomic heterogeneity suggests that behavioral responses to local homicides depend on a combination of heightened vulnerability and access to prenatal care

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Presented in Session 170: Contextual and Environmental Influences on Children’s Health and Well-Being