Fetal Shock or Selection? The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Human Capital Development
NBER Working Paper No. 24725
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 similar but somewhat larger results.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24725