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Historical Origins of a Major Killer: Cardiovascular Disease in the American South

Richard H. Steckel, Garrett Senney

NBER Working Paper No. 21809
Issued in December 2015
NBER Program(s):Children, Development of the American Economy, Development Economics

When building major organs the fetus responds to signals via the placenta that forecast post-natal nutrition. A mismatch between expectations and reality creates physiological stress and elevates several noninfectious chronic diseases. Applying this concept, we investigate the historical origins of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the American South using rapid income growth from 1950 to 1980 as a proxy for socioeconomic forces that created unbalanced physical growth among southern children born after WWII. Using state-level data on income growth, smoking, obesity and education, we explain over 70% of the variance in current CVD mortality rates across the country.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21809

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