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The Lasting Legacy of Seasonal Influenza: In-Utero Exposure and Labor Market Outcomes

Listed author(s):
  • Schwandt, Hannes

    ()

    (University of Zurich)

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    Pregnancy conditions have been shown to matter for later economic success, but many threats to fetal development that have been identified are difficult to prevent. In this paper I study seasonal influenza, a preventable illness that comes around every year and causes strong inflammatory responses in pregnant women. Using administrative data from Denmark, I identify the effects of maternal influenza on the exposed offspring via sibling comparison, exploiting both society-wide influenza spread and information on individual mothers who suffer strong infections during pregnancy. In the short term, maternal influenza leads to a doubling of prematurity and low birth weight, by triggering premature labor among women infected in the third trimester. Following exposed offspring into young adulthood, I observe a 9% earnings reduction and a 35% increase in welfare dependence. These long-term effects are strongest for influenza infections during the second trimester and they are partly explained by a decline in educational attainment, pointing to cognitive impairment. This effect pattern suggests that maternal influenza damages the fetus through multiple mechanisms, and much of the damage may not be visible at birth. Taken together, these results provide evidence that strong infections during pregnancy are an often overlooked prenatal threat with long-term consequences.

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    Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10589.

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    Length: 76 pages
    Date of creation: Feb 2017
    Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10589
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    1. Kasey S. Buckles & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2013. "Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 711-724, July.
    2. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2017. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," NBER Working Papers 23017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Almond, Douglas & Edlund, Lena & Joffe, Michael & Palme, Mårten, 2016. "An adaptive significance of morning sickness? Trivers–Willard and Hyperemesis Gravidarum," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 167-171.
    4. Prashant Bharadwaj & Petter Lundborg & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2015. "Health and Unemployment during Macroeconomic Crises," NBER Working Papers 21353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
    6. Anna Aizer & Flávio Cunha, 2012. "The Production of Human Capital: Endowments, Investments and Fertility," NBER Working Papers 18429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Black, Sandra & Bütikofer, Aline & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G, 2013. "This Is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout," CEPR Discussion Papers 9443, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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