Effects of child health on parents' social capital

Jennifer Schultz, Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, Nancy E. Reichman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This paper adds to the literature on social capital and health by testing whether an exogenous shock in the health of a family member (a new baby) affects the family's investment in social capital. It also contributes to a small but growing literature on the effects of children's health on family resources and provides information about associations between health and social capital in a socioeconomically disadvantaged population. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, a longitudinal survey of about 5000 births to mostly unwed parents in 20 U.S. cities during the years 1998-2000. Both parents were interviewed at the time of the birth and then again one and three years later. The infants' medical records from the birth hospitalization were reviewed, and poor infant health was characterized to reflect serious and random health problems that were present at birth. Social interactions, reported at three years, include the parents' participation in church groups, service clubs, political organizations, community groups, and organizations working with children; regular religious attendance; and visiting relatives with the child. Education, employment, wages, and sociodemographic characteristics are included in the analyses. The results suggest that infant health shocks do not affect the parents' social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grants #R01-HD-45630 and #R01-HD-35301 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We are grateful for helpful input from Henry Saffer and Sara Markowitz and for valuable assistance from Prisca Figaro and Jessica Fuller.


  • Child health
  • Family
  • New birth
  • Parents
  • Social capital
  • Socioeconomic disadvantage
  • USA


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