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The Economic Effects of Micronutrient Deficiency: Evidence from Salt Iodization in the United States

  • Feyrer, James
  • Politi, Dimitra
  • Weil, David N.

Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in the world today. Iodine deficiency was common in the developed world until the introduction of iodized salt in the 1920’s. The incidence of iodine deficiency is connected to low iodine levels in the soil and water. We examine the impact of salt iodization in the US by taking advantage of this natural geographic variation. Areas with high pre-treatment levels of iodine deficiency provide a treatment group which we can compare to a control group of low iodine deficiency areas. In the US, salt was iodized over a very short period of time around 1924. We use previously unused data collected during WWI and WWII to compare outcomes of cohorts born before and after iodization, in localities that were naturally poor and rich in iodine. We find evidence of the beneficial effects of iodization on the cognitive abilities of the cohorts exposed to it.

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File URL: http://repo.sire.ac.uk/handle/10943/143
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Paper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2010-10.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:143
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  1. Watson, Tara, 2006. "Public health investments and the infant mortality gap: Evidence from federal sanitation interventions on U.S. Indian reservations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1537-1560, September.
  2. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117, 02.
  3. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2003. "Institutions Don't Rule: Direct Effects of Geography on Per Capita Income," NBER Working Papers 9490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bishai, David & Nalubola, Ritu, 2002. "The History of Food Fortification in the United States: Its Relevance for Current Fortification Efforts in Developing Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 37-53, October.
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