Professor of Sociology, Stanford University
Exposure to environmental stressors is highly prevalent and unequally distributed along socioeconomic and ethno-racial lines. While the effects of stress on children and adults are well documented, less is known about the long-term consequences when exposure to stressors occurs before birth. This project combines a natural experiment and a longitudinal survey to examine the effect of in-utero exposure to an acute stressor on children’s outcomes. We find that prenatal stress has a negative impact on children’s cognitive and educational outcomes only among disadvantaged families, but not among middle-class families. We examine the mechanism for the effect of prenatal stress.