Unintended Consequences: Will New Regulations on Cribs Improve Safety?

From Justin Ross:

Unintended Consequences: Will New Regulations on Cribs Improve Safety?

This is a concern of mine, like it is for all parents of young children. I pray that this doesn’t make my list of deadly unintended consequences. From CNN:

In addition to eliminating drop-side cribs, the new rules will mandate better mattress support, sturdier hardware and better quality wood for crib construction. Between November 2007 and April of this year, there were 36 deaths associated with crib structural problems, according to Commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum.

Ok, so the benefits would come from lowering the number of crib quality deaths, which recent data has at 36 deaths over about 2.5 years. However, these mandated features make it sound like it will also make cribs more expensive. What if some people are on the margin between letting the infant sleep in the bed with them or in a crib?* As cribs become more expensive, will some people bring their infants to bed with them at night? How safe is that? Here is a story from WSJ in 2009, where most of it has experts claiming an association between bed sharing and strangulation:

Shapiro-Mendoza and her colleagues found that the rate of accidental strangulation and suffocation deaths increased from 2.8 to 12.5 per 100,000 live births during with the 20-year study period, increasing the number of deaths from 103 in 1984 to 513 in 2004.


The findings prompted several experts to call for increased efforts to discourage parents from sleeping in the same bed with their babies or in other unsafe places, such as couches, and to educate parents about how they can sleep near their children safely.

The cause of 513 fatalities in the most recently available year is certainly more concerning than 36 over 2.5 years. If this association is true (and it certainly seems logical), then hopefully there are not that many people on the sleep-in-bed vs crib margin or else that the cost increase is sufficiently small.** I certainly would not want to bet on the odds that the regulation will reduce total infant fatalities.

*Not just new cribs, mind you, as more expensive new cribs will also increase the price of used cribs.
**Also worth considering are the relevant wealth effects. With more disposable income going to cribs, will less be devoted to other relevant family resources?

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