Historical Origins of a Major Killer: Cardiovascular Disease in the American South
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.
The authors thank Dr. Kent Thornburg, Dr. Daniel Lackland, participants at the NBER Summer Institute on Development of the American Economy, and seminar participants at Ohio State University and at Oregon Health and Science University for their valuable feedback and comments on this project. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research