Brian Beach

Department of Economics
College of William and Mary
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187
Tel: 757/221-1389

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
NBER Program Affiliations: DAE
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow

NBER Working Papers and Publications

June 2018Fetal Shock or Selection? The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Human Capital Development
with Joseph P. Ferrie, Martin H. Saavedra: w24725
Almond (2006) argues that in utero exposure to the 1918 influenza pandemic lowered socioeconomic status in adulthood, whereas Brown & Thomas (2018) find that the effect disappears after controlling for parental characteristics of the 1919 birth cohort. We link microdata from the 1920 and 1930 censuses to WWII enlistment records and city-level in uenza data. This allows us to adopt an empirical approach that overcomes the selection concerns raised by Brown & Thomas (2018). Results indicate that in the absence of the pandemic, the 1919 birth cohort would have been more likely to graduate from high school, an effect that is largely unaffected by including parental controls and city-specific time trends. Adding household fixed effects (and thus exploiting variation among brothers) yields simil...
June 2017Estimating the Recession-Mortality Relationship when Migration Matters
with Vellore Arthi, W. Walker Hanlon: w23507
A large literature following Ruhm (2000) suggests that mortality falls during recessions and rises during booms. The panel-data approach used to generate these results assumes that either there is no substantial migration response to temporary changes in local economic conditions, or that any such response is accurately captured by intercensal population estimates. To assess the importance of these assumptions, we examine two natural experiments: the recession in cotton textile-producing districts of Britain during the U.S. Civil War, and the coal boom in Appalachian counties of the U.S. that followed the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s. In both settings, we find evidence of a substantial migratory response. Moreover, we show that estimates of the relationship between business cycles and mor...
August 2016Who Should Own and Control Urban Water Systems? Historical Evidence from England and Wales
with Werner Troesken, Nicola Tynan: w22553
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.
July 2014Typhoid Fever, Water Quality, and Human Capital Formation
with Joseph Ferrie, Martin Saavedra, Werner Troesken: w20279
Investment in water purification technologies led to large mortality declines by helping eradicate typhoid fever and other waterborne diseases. This paper seeks to understand how these technologies affected human capital formation. We use typhoid fatality rates during early life as a proxy for water quality. To carry out the analysis, city-level data are merged with a unique dataset linking individuals between the 1900 and 1940 censuses. Parametric and semi-parametric estimates suggest that eradicating early-life exposure to typhoid fever would have increased earnings in later life by 1% and increased educational attainment by one month. Instrumenting for typhoid fever using the typhoid rates from cities that lie upstream produces similar results. A simple cost-benefit analysis indicates t...

Published: Beach, Brian & Ferrie, Joseph & Saavedra, Martin & Troesken, Werner, 2016. "Typhoid Fever, Water Quality, and Human Capital Formation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(01), pages 41-75, March. citation courtesy of

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