Long Run Health Impacts of Income Shocks: Wine and Phylloxera in 19th Century France
This paper provides estimates of the long-term effects on height and health of a large income shock experienced in early childhood. Phylloxera, an insect that attacks the roots of grape vines, destroyed 40% of French vineyards between 1863 and 1890, causing major income losses among wine growing families. Because the insects spread slowly from the southern coast of France to the rest of the country, Phylloxera affected different regions in different years. We exploit the regional variation in the timing of this shock to identify its effects. We examine the effects on the adult height, health, and life expectancy of children born in the years and regions affected by the Phylloxera. The shock decreased long run height, but it did not affect other dimensions of health, including life expectancy. We find that, at age 20, those born in affected regions were about 1.8 millimeters shorter than others. This estimate implies that children of wine-growing families born when the vines were affected in their regions were 0.6 to 0.9 centimeters shorter than others by age 20. This is a significant effect since average heights grew by only 2 centimeters in the entire 19th century. However, we find no other effect on health, including infant mortality, life expectancy, and morbidity by age 20.