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When It Rains It Pours: The Long-run Economic Impacts of Salt Iodization in the United States

Achyuta Adhvaryu, Steven Bednar, Anant Nyshadham, Teresa Molina, Quynh Nguyen

NBER Working Paper No. 24847
Issued in July 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies

In 1924, The Morton Salt Company began nationwide distribution of iodine-fortified salt. Ac- cess to iodine, a key determinant of cognitive ability, rose sharply. We compare outcomes for cohorts exposed in utero with those of slightly older, unexposed cohorts, across states with high versus low baseline iodine deficiency. Income increased by 11%; labor force participation rose 0.68 percentage points; and full-time work went up 0.9 percentage points due to increased iodine availability. These impacts were largely driven by changes in the economic outcomes of young women. In later adulthood, both men and women had higher family incomes due to iodization.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24847

 
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