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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 )

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2011. "Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance during Pregnancy," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 56-85, October.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. van Ewijk, Reyn, 2011. "Long-term health effects on the next generation of Ramadan fasting during pregnancy," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1246-1260.
    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. 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.
    4. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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