NBER Publications by Karen Rolf

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Working Papers and Chapters

June 2011Cognitive Disparities, Lead Plumbing, and Water Chemistry: Intelligence Test Scores and Exposure to Water-Borne Lead Among World War Two U.S. Army Enlistees
with Joseph P. Ferrie, Werner Troesken: w17161
Assessing the impact of lead exposure is difficult if individuals select on the basis of their characteristics into environments with different exposure levels. We address this issue with data from when the dangers of lead exposure were still largely unknown, using new evidence on intelligence test scores for male World War Two U.S. Army enlistees linked to the households where they resided in 1930. Higher exposure to water-borne lead (proxied by urban residence and low water pH levels) was associated with lower test scores: going from pH 6 to pH 5.5, scores fell 5 points (1/4 standard deviation). A longer time exposed led to a more severe effect. The ubiquity of lead in urban water systems at this time and uncertainty regarding its impact mean these effects are unlikely to have resulted...

Published: “Cogn iti ve Dis par iti e s, Le ad P lumpin g, an d Wa te r Ch e mist r y: P r ior Exposur e to W ate r - Bor ne Le ad an d In te lli ge nc e Te st Sc or e s A mon g Wor ld W ar Two Ar my En lis te e s,” Econom ics and Hu ma n Bi ol ogy , vol . 10, n o. 1 ( Jan uar y 201 2): 98- 112. Co-a uthor s: J ose ph P. Fe r r ie (Nor th we ste r n Un ive r sity ) a nd Ka r e n Rolf (U ni ve r sity of Ne br aska at Oma ha ).

May 2011Socioeconomic Status in Childhood and Health After Age 70: A New Longitudinal Analysis for the U.S., 1895-2005
with Joseph P. Ferrie: w17016
The link between circumstances faced by individuals early in life (including those encountered in utero) and later life outcomes has been of increasing interest since the work of Barker in the 1970s on birth weight and adult disease. We provide such a life course perspective for the U.S. by following 45,000 U.S.-born males from the household where they resided before age 5 until their death and analyzing the link between the characteristics of their childhood environment - particularly, its socioeconomic status - and their longevity and specific cause of death. Individuals living before age 5 in lower SES households (measured by father's occupation and family home ownership) die younger and are more likely to die from heart disease than those living in higher SES households. The pathways p...

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