NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Does in utero Exposure to Illness Matter? The 1918 Influenza Epidemic in Taiwan as a Natural Experiment

Ming-Jen Lin, Elaine M. Liu

NBER Working Paper No. 20166
Issued in May 2014
NBER Program(s):   AG   CH   HE

This paper tests whether in utero conditions affect long-run developmental outcomes using the 1918 influenza pandemic in Taiwan as a natural experiment. Combining several historical and current datasets, we find that cohorts in utero during the pandemic are shorter as children/adolescents and less educated compared to other birth cohorts. We also find that they are more likely to have serious health problems including kidney disease, circulatory and respiratory problems, and diabetes in old age. Despite possible positive selection on health outcomes due to high infant mortality rates during this period (18 percent), our paper finds a strong negative impact of in utero exposure to influenza.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20166

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