The long-term impacts of Medicaid exposure in early childhood: Evidence from the program's origin

J Health Econ. 2016 Jan:45:161-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2015.11.001. Epub 2015 Nov 19.


This paper examines the long-term impact of exposure to Medicaid in early childhood on adult health and economic status. The staggered timing of Medicaid's adoption across the states created meaningful variation in cumulative exposure to Medicaid for birth cohorts that are now in adulthood. Analyses of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics suggest exposure to Medicaid in early childhood (age 0-5) is associated with statistically significant and meaningful improvements in adult health (age 25-54), and this effect is only seen in subgroups targeted by the program. Results for economic outcomes are imprecise and we are unable to come to definitive conclusions. Using separate data we find evidence of two mechanisms that could plausibly link Medicaid's introduction to long-term outcomes: contemporaneous increases in health services utilization for children and reductions in family medical debt.

Keywords: Health and human capital; Medicaid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Health
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medicaid*
  • Middle Aged
  • United States
  • Young Adult