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The Impact of a Wartime Health Shock on the Postwar Socioeconomic Status and Mortality of Union Army Veterans and their Children

Dora Costa, Noelle Yetter, Heather DeSomer

NBER Working Paper No. 25480
Issued in January 2019
NBER Program(s):The Program on Aging, The Program on Children, The Program on the Development of the American Economy, The Health Economics Program, The Labor Studies Program

We investigate when and how health shocks reverberate across the life cycle and down to descendants by examining the impact of war wounds on the socioeconomic status and older age mortality of US Civil War (1861-5) veterans and of their adult children. Younger veterans who had been wounded in the war left the farm sector, becoming laborers. Consistent with human capital and job matching models, older wounded men were unlikely to switch sectors and experienced wealth declines. Fathers' severe wartime wounds affected daughters', but not sons', socioeconomic status. Daughters were shorter-lived if their fathers were older at the end of the war and had been severely wounded compared to daughters of fathers not severely wounded or younger when severely wounded. We suspect that early life conditions disproportionately affected daughters. Our findings illuminate the long reach of disability in a manual labor economy.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25480

 
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