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Food Prices and Cognitive Development in the United States: Evidence from the 1850-1930 Data

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  • Zhou, Qingtian

Abstract

This paper investigates the impact of food prices on children’s cognitive development by exploiting historical price and census data in the mid to late 19th century and early 20th century United States. I explicitly model the relationships among food prices, nutrition, and cognitive development for both non-farm and farm households and use the model to motivate my empirical strategy. My empirical results confirm that there exist statistically significant differences between the two types of households in terms of the partial effects of food prices on children’s cognitive development. Using the preferred specification of this paper, I find that on average, a 1% increase in food price level reduces children’s probability of literacy by 0.44% for non-farm households and 0.37% for farm households; the average food price effect for farm households is 5/6 of that for non-farm households, after controlling for nonfood prices, household wages, demographic characteristics, household environments, and agricultural production inputs. These results send an important message to policymakers who want to address childhood nutrition and cognitive skill issues in developing countries—policy prescriptions need to take the population composition into consideration.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhou, Qingtian, 2017. "Food Prices and Cognitive Development in the United States: Evidence from the 1850-1930 Data," Master's Theses and Plan B Papers 261505, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:umapmt:261505
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Harold Alderman & John Hoddinott & Bill Kinsey, 2006. "Long term consequences of early childhood malnutrition," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 450-474, July.
    2. Brian A'Hearn & Alexia Delfino, 2016. "Rethinking Age-heaping, a Cautionary Tale From Nineteenth Century Italy," Economics Series Working Papers Paper 148, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. repec:eee:wdevel:v:112:y:2018:i:c:p:163-179 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Brian A'Hearn & Alexia Delfino & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2016. "Rethinking Age-Heaping. A Cautionary Tale from Nineteenth Century Italy," LEM Papers Series 2016/35, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    5. A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 783-808, September.
    6. The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, 1960. "Trends in the American Economy in the Nineteenth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number unkn60-1, January.
    7. Glewwe, Paul & Jacoby, Hanan G. & King, Elizabeth M., 2001. "Early childhood nutrition and academic achievement: a longitudinal analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 345-368, September.
    8. Jorg Baten & Dorothee Crayen & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2014. "Numeracy and the Impact of High Food Prices in Industrializing Britain, 1780–1850," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(3), pages 418-430, July.
    9. Bellemare, Marc F. & Fajardo-Gonzalez, Johanna & Gitter, Seth R., 2018. "Foods and fads: The welfare impacts of rising quinoa prices in Peru," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 163-179.
    10. Ampaabeng, Samuel K. & Tan, Chih Ming, 2013. "The long-term cognitive consequences of early childhood malnutrition: The case of famine in Ghana," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1013-1027.
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    Keywords

    Agricultural and Food Policy; Food Security and Poverty;

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