Date of Award

Spring 2006

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Karen S Conway


Expenditure programs, business cycles, and government interventions can affect many decisions surrounding the birth of a child. For example, public insurance programs such as Medicaid have the potential to increase the utilization of prenatal care. This, in turn, may lead to better infant and maternal health outcomes. Given the high and increasing number of pregnant women covered by Medicaid, the effectiveness of the program in promoting prenatal care use and improving health needs to be evaluated. Also, the impacts of business cycles on childbearing are of interest to policymakers. For example, does unemployment substantially affect the decision to conceive a child or the ability to obtain appropriate medical services? And, if so, are infant and maternal health outcomes compromised during economic downturns? A well-informed government can design policies to help deal with issues such as these. Government interventions, however, can have unintended (and potentially harmful) consequences as well. For example, several recent economics papers have demonstrated that fiscal policies may affect fertility and the timing of delivery. Understanding the incentives embedded in government programs and assessing the responsiveness of individual behavior to these incentives is therefore key. My dissertation consists of three essays in which I investigate an important understudied aspect of the Medicaid program, inform policymakers about the impacts of unemployment on prenatal care use, infant and maternal health, and add to our understanding of the unintended effects of government interventions on the timing of births.