In a Princeton University news-focused series featuring faculty who present their views on current events, NOMIS Awardee Janet Currie shared her insights into how the global pandemic has impacted mothers and children, its disproportionate effects on low-income populations, and both the positive implications and gaps of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
by Sarah M. Binder and Patty Yelavich
Access to comprehensive, quality health care is critical for promoting and maintaining health and well-being. Yet, under normal circumstances, health care accessibility is an issue for many in the United States. Covid-19 brings new challenges for low-income families, expecting mothers, and others at higher risk for serious illness.
We asked faculty expert Janet Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University’s Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) and co-director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing, to take a deeper look at how the global pandemic has impacted mothers and children, its disproportionate effects on low-income populations, and both the positive implications and gaps of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Currie is a pioneer in the economic analysis of child development. Her current research focuses on the socioeconomic differences in health and access to health care, environmental threats to health, and the important role of mental health.
Q. The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the world is now in a global recession. How might a recession impact the health and wellbeing of U.S. families?
Currie: The latest from the IMF is that we are likely to experience a contraction as bad as the Great Depression. Research shows that we can expect this to have severe short- and long-term effects on health. Babies in utero are especially vulnerable. We don’t know yet what effect Covid-19 has on the developing fetus, but evidence of the effects of the seasonal flu are worrying. We know, for example, that flu causes many cases of premature delivery every year in the U.S., and that babies who are premature are more likely to have health effects ranging from asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to long-term disability. Maternal stress during pregnancy also has been shown to have negative effects on the fetus — for instance, in work on babies born to mothers who lived along projected hurricane paths in Texas, I showed that affected babies were 60% more likely to have abnormal conditions than their own siblings who were not affected in-utero by hurricanes.
Continue reading this SPIA interview
Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs
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