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

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

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. Importantly, we are able to examine the effects of exposure each month in utero to determine the periods when exposure is most harmful. We find that exposure to low-dose nuclear radiation, specifically during months 3 and 4 in utero, 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. We are also able to examine whether these effects persist across a second generation – we find that the children of persons affected in utero also have lower cognitive scores, suggesting a persistent effect of the shock to endowments. Given the lack of awareness about nuclear testing in Norway at this time, our estimates are likely to be unaffected by avoidance behavior or stress effects. These results are robust to the choice of specification and the inclusion of sibling fixed effects.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18987.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18987

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References

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  1. 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.
  2. Janet Currie & Enrico Moreti, 2005. "Biology As Destiny? Short And Long-Run Determinants Of Intergenerational Transmission Of Birth Weight," Working Papers id:194, eSocialSciences.
  3. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2006. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 19425, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & MÃ¥rten 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.
  5. Janet Currie & Rosemary Hyson, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," NBER Working Papers 6999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Janet Currie & Matthew J. Neidell & Johannes Schmieder, 2008. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: Lessons from New Jersey," NBER Working Papers 14196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Tara Watson & Angela Fertig, 2008. "Minimum Drinking Age Laws and Infant Health Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 14118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Alexander M. Danzer & Natalia Danzer, 2014. "The Long-Run Consequences of Chernobyl: Evidence on Subjective Well-Being, Mental Health and Welfare," CESifo Working Paper Series 4855, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Martin Halla & Martina Zweimüller, 2014. "Parental Response to Early Human Capital Shocks: Evidence from the Chernobyl Accident," Economics working papers, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria 2014-02, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  3. Sandra Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2014. "Does grief transfer across generations? In-utero deaths and child outcomes," NBER Working Papers 19979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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