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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Children of the Mortality Revolution-Infectious Disease and Long Run Outcomes
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
URL http://econ.hunter.cuny.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Zhang.pdf
This paper studies the effect of infectious disease exposure in early childhood on adult labor
market outcomes. To do this, I exploit the exogenous variations in public health projects
and new drugs during the Mortality Revolution (1901-1955) in the United States, an era with
unmatched mortality decline, driven by innovations in disease control technologies. I create an
index of early childhood disease exposure that exploits cross-state variation in pre-intervention
disease prevalence, and time variation arising from medical innovations during this period. The
results indicate that higher disease prevalence in childhood reduces adult education attainment
and earnings, and that public health interventions contributed to roughly 10% of the changes
in labor market outcomes between the 1901 and 1955 cohorts. The effect per unit of mortality
decline is stronger in the second half of this period (1937-1955), when medications such
as penicillin and sulfa drugs were introduced. My findings also shed light on the benefit of
controlling infectious diseases in the developing world.

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