The effects of maternal fasting during Ramadan on birth and adult outcomes
We use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment for evaluating the short and long-term effects of fasting during pregnancy. Using Michigan natality data we show that in utero exposure to Ramadan among Arab births results in lower birthweight and reduced gestation length. Preconception exposure to Ramadan is also associated with fewer male births. Using Census data in Uganda we also find that Muslims who were born nine months after Ramadan are 22 percent (p =0.02) more likely to be disabled as adults. Effects are found for vision, hearing, and especially for mental (or learning) disabilities. This may reflect the persistent effect of disruptions to early fetal development. We find no evidence that negative selection in conceptions during Ramadan accounts for our results. Nevertheless, caution in interpreting these results is warranted until our findings are corroborated in other settings. ; Not for Citation.
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