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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Feyrer, James & Politi, Dimitra & Weil, David N., 2010. "The Economic Effects of Micronutrient Deficiency: Evidence from Salt Iodization in the United States," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-10, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  • Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:143
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10943/143
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2007. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 925-985, December.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1987:77:2:219-229_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117.
    6. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Politi, Dimitra, 2010. "The Impact of Iodine Deficiency Eradication on Schooling: Evidence from the Introduction of Iodized Salt in Switzerland," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-02, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    2. Charles I. Jones & Peter J. Klenow, 2016. "Beyond GDP? Welfare across Countries and Time," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(9), pages 2426-2457, September.
    3. Hoffmann, Vivian, 2009. "What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: Micronutrient Content and Fungal Contamination of Foods in Developing Countries," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 38(2), October.

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