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Health and Wealth Accumulation: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century America

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  • Chulhee Lee

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Chulhee Lee, 2003. "Health and Wealth Accumulation: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Working Papers 10035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10035
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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