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This Is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout

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  • Black, Sandra
  • Bütikofer, Aline
  • Devereux, Paul J.
  • Salvanes, Kjell G

Abstract

Research increasingly shows that differences in endowments at birth need not be genetic but instead are influenced by environmental factors while the fetus is in the womb. In addition, these differences may persist well beyond childhood. In this paper, we study one such environmental factor – exposure to radiation—that affects individuals across the socio-economic spectrum. We use variation in radioactive exposure throughout Norway in the 1950s and early 60s, resulting from the abundance of nuclear weapon testing during that time period, to examine the effect of nuclear exposure in utero on outcomes such as IQ scores, education, earnings, and adult height. At this time, there was very little awareness in Norway about nuclear testing so our estimates are likely to be unaffected by avoidance behavior or stress effects. We find that exposure to nuclear radiation, even in low doses, leads to a decline in IQ scores of men aged 18. Moreover, radiation exposure leads to declines in education attainment, high school completion, and earnings among men and women. These results are robust to the choice of specification and the inclusion of sibling fixed effects.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9443.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9443

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Keywords: fetal origins; pollution and health;

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References

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  1. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2007. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," NBER Working Papers 13347, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2005. "Biology as Destiny? Short and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 11567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
  4. Elaine Kelly, 2011. "The Scourge of Asian Flu: In utero Exposure to Pandemic Influenza and the Development of a Cohort of British Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(4), pages 669-694.
  5. Sandra E. Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2006. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," CEE Discussion Papers 0061, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  6. Tara Watson & Angela Fertig, 2008. "Minimum Drinking Age Laws and Infant Health Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 14118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Kasey Buckles & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2008. "Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers," NBER Working Papers 14573, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Currie, Janet & Neidell, Matthew & Schmieder, Johannes F., 2009. "Air pollution and infant health: Lessons from New Jersey," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 688-703, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2014. "Does Grief Transfer across Generations? In-Utero Deaths and Child Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 8043, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Sylvia Frühwirth-Schnatter & Martin Halla & Alexandra Posekany & Gerald J. Pruckner & Thomas Schober, 2014. "Parental Response to Early Human Capital Shocks: Evidence from the Chernobyl Accident," NRN working papers 2014-02, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  3. Danzer, Alexander M. & Danzer, Natalia, 2014. "The Long-Run Consequences of Chernobyl: Evidence on Subjective Well-Being, Mental Health and Welfare," Discussion Papers in Economics 20969, University of Munich, Department of Economics.

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