Who Should Own and Control Urban Water Systems? Historical Evidence from England and Wales
NBER Working Paper No. 22553
Issued in August 2016
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Health Economics, Public Economics
Nearly 40% of England’s privately built waterworks were municipalised in the late 19th century. We examine how this affected public health by pairing annual mortality data for over 600 registration districts, spanning 1869 to 1910, with detailed waterworks information. Identification is aided by both institutional hurdles and idiosyncratic delays in the municipalisation process. Municipalisation lowered deaths from typhoid fever, a waterborne disease, by nearly 20% but deaths from non-waterborne causes were unaffected. Results are also robust to the adoption of several strategies that control for the possibility of mean reversion and other potential confounds.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22553
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