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Atmospheric Pollution and Child Health in Late Nineteenth Century Britain

Listed author(s):
  • Bailey, Roy E.

    ()

    (University of Essex)

  • Hatton, Timothy J.

    ()

    (University of Essex)

  • Inwood, Kris

    ()

    (University of Guelph)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10428.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2016
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10428
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  1. Stephan Heblich & Alex Trew & Yanos Zylberberg, 2016. "East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201613, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  2. George R. Boyer & Timothy J. Hatton, 1997. "Migration and Labour Market Integration in Late Nineteenth-Century England and Wales," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(4), pages 697-734, November.
  3. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
  4. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2005. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: What Can We Learn from California's Recent Experience?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1003-1030.
  5. Seema Jayachandran, 2009. "Air Quality and Early-Life Mortality: Evidence from Indonesia’s Wildfires," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
  6. Timothy J. Hatton, 2011. "Infant mortality and the health of survivors: Britain, 1910–50," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(3), pages 951-972, 08.
  7. Troesken, Werner, 2002. "The Limits Of Jim Crow: Race And The Provision Of Water And Sewerage Services In American Cities, 1880 1925," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(03), pages 734-772, September.
  8. Crafts, Nicholas & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2014. "The Location of the UK Cotton Textiles Industry in 1838: A Quantitative Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(04), pages 1103-1139, December.
  9. Tanaka, Shinsuke, 2015. "Environmental regulations on air pollution in China and their impact on infant mortality," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 90-103.
  10. Janet Currie & Joshua Graff Zivin & Jamie Mullins & Matthew Neidell, 2014. "What Do We Know About Short- and Long-Term Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Pollution?," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 217-247, October.
  11. Alan Fernihough & Kevin Hjorstshøj O’Rourke, 2014. "Coal and the European Industrial Revolution," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _124, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  12. Katharina Janke & Carol Propper & John Henderson, 2009. "Do current levels of air pollution kill? The impact of air pollution on population mortality in England," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(9), pages 1031-1055.
  13. Resul Cesur & Erdal Tekin & Aydogan Ulker, 2013. "Air Pollution and Infant Mortality: Evidence from the Expansion of Natural Gas Infrastructure," NBER Working Papers 18736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Hatton, Timothy J., 2010. "Infant Mortality and the Health of Survivors: Britain 1910-1950," IZA Discussion Papers 4932, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Bodenhorn, Howard & Guinnane, Timothy W. & Mroz, Thomas A., 2017. "Sample-Selection Biases and the Industrialization Puzzle," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(01), pages 171-207, March.
  16. Bodenhorn, Howard & Guinnane, Timothy W. & Mroz, Thomas A., 2013. "Problems of Sample-Selection Bias in the Historical Heights Literature: A Theoretical and Econometric Analysis," Working Papers 114, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  17. David Cutler & Grant Miller, 2005. "The role of public health improvements in health advances: The twentieth-century United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(1), pages 1-22, February.
  18. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," Working Papers 0406, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  19. Roy E. Bailey & Timothy J. Hatton & Kris Inwood, 2016. "Health, height, and the household at the turn of the twentieth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(1), pages 35-53, 02.
  20. W. Walker Hanlon & Yuan Tian, 2015. "Killer Cities: Past and Present," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 570-575, May.
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