Björn Högberg, Anna Baranowska-Rataj, Jonas Voßemer
Intergenerational effects of parental unemployment on infant health: Evidence from Swedish register data

CEDAR Working Papers; 2021:20
Umeå University

Parental unemployment can have detrimental effects on life chances of the children, and thus reinforce inequalities across generations. Despite a substantial literature documenting that the health of infants at birth can have large and long-lasting consequences, research on intergenerational unemployment effects on infant health is scant. This study fills the gap using high-quality register data from Sweden, including 1.3 million siblings born between 1996 and 2017. To account for selection into unemployment, we employ sibling comparison designs that exploit variation in siblings’ exposure to parental unemployment, thereby accounting for stable but unmeasured confounding at the level of families. We find small, although statistically significant effects of maternal unemployment and no effects of paternal unemployment. Our results also suggest that pre-existing social disadvantage – low education, migration background, dual parent unemployment – are not associated with more adverse intergenerational unemployment effects. The discussion of our findings situates these results in the context of a relatively generous and egalitarian welfare state.