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Atmospheric Pollution and Child Health in Late Nineteenth Century Britain

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  • Roy E. Bailey
  • Timothy J. Hatton
  • Kris Inwood

Abstract

Atmospheric pollution was an important side effect of coal-fired industrialisation in the nineteenth century. In Britain emissions of black smoke were on the order of fifty times as high as they were a century later. In this paper we examine the effects of these emissions on child development by analysing the heights on enlistment during the First World War of men born in England and Wales in the 1890s. We use the occupational structure to measure the coal intensity of the districts in which these men were observed as children in the 1901 census. We find strong negative effects of coal intensity on height, which amounts to difference of almost an inch between the most and least polluted localities. These results are robust to a variety of specification tests and they are consistent with the notion that the key channel of influence on height was via respiratory infection. The subsequent reduction of emissions from coal combustion is one factor contributing to the improvement in health (and the increase in height) during the twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Roy E. Bailey & Timothy J. Hatton & Kris Inwood, 2016. "Atmospheric Pollution and Child Health in Late Nineteenth Century Britain," CEH Discussion Papers 052, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:hpaper:051
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    File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/CEH/WP201609.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Schneider, Eric B. & Ogasawara, Kota, 2018. "Disease and child growth in industrialising Japan: Critical windows and the growth pattern, 1917–39," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 64-80.
    2. Walker Hanlon, 2018. "London fog: A century of pollution and mortality, 1866-1965," Working Papers 18019, Economic History Society.
    3. Schneider, Eric B. & Ogasawara, Kota, 2017. "Disease and child growth in industrialising Japan: assessing instantaneous changes in growth and changes in the growth pattern, 1911-39," Economic History Working Papers 84066, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    atmospheric pollution; health and height; 19th century Britain;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

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