Nicolas Ziebarth and I had previously done work on the topic of child safety seats, and we’d noticed that most of the observational studies in the area did not investigate the impact of policy on child safety on roads. In investigating the structure of the laws, we noticed that they had become increasingly restrictive. The state-level law changes provided a perfect context to investigate their impact using a natural experiment framework.
What is the main conclusion that becomes evident from your research? (Or, what is your main takeaway?)
There are a few main takeaways of this research. Firstly, child safety seat laws are highly effective in changing parenting behavior. This is an important finding because it suggests that parents are a highly responsive audience, and respond quickly to new protection laws. Secondly, we find interesting evidence that while parents respond to the laws, they may not respond in a way that significantly improves safety. The laws did not decrease the prevalence of unrestrained children but rather caused parents to substitute between safety devices.
What are some of the more interesting or surprising findings/conclusions did you find in the process of bringing this together?
One thing that surprised me was that the laws did not save more lives. While more restrictive child safety seat laws have reduced fatalities, the size of the reduction is relatively small, especially when we consider how many parents changed their restraint behavior in response to the laws.
Lauren Jones, PhD, (@DrLaurenJones) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Sciences and an Extension State Specialist in Consumer Policy at The Ohio State University. She obtained her PhD in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University in 2014. She conducts quantitative, policy-based research on child and family wellbeing, especially in the areas of health and household economics. Her interests lie in understanding what factors impact the ability of children and families to flourish, and how government policy can help families get ahead.
Nicolas Ziebarth, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department for Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. He holds a PhD in Economics from the Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin), where he graduated in 2011. Professor Ziebarth's research is in the field of applied health and labor economics. In particular, he analyzes the interaction of social security systems with labor markets and population health. Another focus of his work is the driving forces and implications of health-related behavior. Since 2010, research co-authored by Dr. Ziebarth has won seven best paper awards. His PhD thesis on "Sickness Absence and Economic Incentives" was awarded the Upjohn Institute Dissertation Award 2011.