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Health and Wealth Accumulation: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century America

  • Chulhee Lee

This study explores how the health of Union Army recruits while in the service affected their wealth accumulation through 1870. Wartime wounds and exposure to combat, measured by the company mortality from wounds, had strong negative effects on subsequent savings. Variables on illnesses while in service, if corrected for the potential bias arising from omitted variables by using instrumental variables, also greatly diminished wealth accumulations. The economic impact of poor health was particularly strong for unskilled workers. These results suggest that health was a powerful determinant of economic mobility in the nineteenth century. The strong influences on wealth accumulations of various infectious diseases, such as malaria, typhoid, and diarrhea, found in this study point out that the economic gains from the improvement of the disease environment should be enormous. This study also suggests that the direct economic costs of the Civil War were probably much greater than previously thought, if the persistent adverse effects of wartime experiences on veterans' health are considered.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10035.

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Date of creation: Oct 2003
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Publication status: published as Lee, Chulhee, 2005. "Wealth Accumulation and the Health of Union Army Veterans, 1860 1870," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 352-385, June.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10035
Note: DAE
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  1. Joshua Angrist, 1989. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records," Working Papers 631, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "Wages, Prices, and Labor Markets before the Civil War," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 67-104 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Meer, Jonathan & Miller, Douglas L. & Rosen, Harvey S., 2003. "Exploring the health-wealth nexus," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 713-730, September.
  4. Galenson, David W., 1991. "Economic Opportunity on the urban frontier: nativity, work, and wealth in early chicago," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 581-603, September.
  5. David W. Galenson & Clayne L. Pope, 1989. "Economic and Geographic Mobility on the Farming Frontier: Evidence from Appanoose County, Iowa 1850-1870," NBER Historical Working Papers 0004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
  7. Ellen Meara, 2001. "Why is Health Related to Socioeconomic Status?," NBER Working Papers 8231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1.
  9. Conley, Timothy G. & Galenson, David W., 1998. "Nativity and Wealth in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cities," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 468-493, June.
  10. Orazio P. Attanasio & Hilary W. Hoynes, 1995. "Differential Mortality and Wealth Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 5126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ettner, Susan L., 1996. "New evidence on the relationship between income and health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 67-85, February.
  12. Herscovici, Steven, 1998. "Migration and Economic Mobility: Wealth Accumulation and Occupational Change Among Antebellum Migrants and Persisters," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(04), pages 927-956, December.
  13. Mark C. Berger & Barry T. Hirsch, 1983. "The Civilian Earnings Experience of Vietnam - Era Veterans," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(4), pages 455-479.
  14. Robert William Fogel, 1993. "New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging," NBER Historical Working Papers 0026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Herscovici Steven, 1993. "The Distribution of Wealth in Nineteenth Century Boston: Inequality among Natives and Immigrants, 1860," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 321-335, July.
  16. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
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