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Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance during Pregnancy

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  • Douglas Almond
  • Bhashkar Mazumder

Abstract

This paper uses the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in diurnal fasting and fetal health. Among births to Arab parents in Michigan, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan results in lower birth weight. Exposure in the first month of gestation also reduces the number of male births. Turning to long-term "fetal origins" effects, we find Muslims in Uganda and Iraq are 20 percent more likely to be disabled as adults if early pregnancy overlapped with Ramadan. Estimated effects are larger for mental (or learning) disabilities. Our results suggest that relatively mild prenatal exposures can have persistent effects. (JEL I12, J16, O15, O17, Z12 )

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 56-85

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:3:y:2011:i:4:p:56-85

Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.3.4.56
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  1. Reyn van Ewijk, 2009. "Long-Term Health Effects on the Next Generation of Ramadan Fasting During Pregnancy," CEP Discussion Papers dp0926, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Gerard J. van den Berg & Maarten Lindeboom & France Portrait, 2006. "Economic Conditions Early in Life and Individual Mortality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 290-302, March.
  3. Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Amitabh Chandra, 1999. "Taxes and the Timing of Birth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 161-177, February.
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