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Infant Mortality and the Repeal of Federal Prohibition

David S. Jacks, Krishna Pendakur, Hitoshi Shigeoka

NBER Working Paper No. 23372
Issued in April 2017, Revised in July 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Development of the American Economy, Health Economics, Public Economics

Exploiting new data on county-level variation in alcohol prohibition from 1933 to 1939, we investigate whether the repeal of federal prohibition increased infant mortality, both in counties that repealed and in their neighboring counties. Using a binomial fixed-effects model, we find that repeal is associated with a 4.0% increase in infant mortality rates in counties that chose wet status via local option elections or state-wide legislation and with a 4.7% increase in neighboring dry counties, suggesting a role for cross-border policy externalities. Cumulatively, these estimates imply 26,960 infant deaths that could potentially be attributed to the repeal of federal prohibition.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23372

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