Children of the Mortality Revolution – Infectious Disease and Long Run Outcomes

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Date and Time: 
Thursday, May 12, 2016
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

This paper studies the effect of infectious diseases control in early childhood exposure on adult labor market outcomes. I exploit the exogenous variation in public health projects and drug innovations during the Mortality Revolution (1901-1955) in the United States, an era with unmatched mortality decline due to infectious disease control. Exploiting cross-state variation in pre-intervention infectious causes of death, and time variation arising from medical innovations during the Mortality Revolution, I create a measure of disease exposure during early childhood. The results indicate that higher disease exposure in childhood reduces adult education attainment and wage. These interventions contributed to roughly 10% of the changes in labor market outcomes between the 1901 and 1955 cohorts. The effect per a unit of mortality decline is stronger in the second half of the Mortality Revolution (1937-1955), when medication such as penicillin and sulfa drugs were introduced. The result sheds light on the benefit of
controlling infectious diseases in the developing world.