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Deprivation and Disease in Early Twentieth-Century America

  • Karen Clay
  • Werner Troesken

This paper explores how early life exposure to poverty and want adversely affects later life health outcomes. In particular, it examines how exposure to crowded housing conditions and impure drinking water undermines long-term health prospects and increases the risk of age-related pathologies such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Exploiting city-level data from early-twentieth century America, evidence is presented that cities with unusually high rates of typhoid fever in 1900 had elevated rates of heart and kidney disease fifteen years later; also cities with unusually high rates of tuberculosis in 1900 had elevated rates of cancer and stroke fifteen years later. The estimated coefficients suggest that eradicating typhoid fever (through water purification) and tuberculosis (through improved housing and nutrition) would have reduced later death rates from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and kidney disease by 23 to 35 percent.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12111.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12111.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12111
Note: AG HE DAE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Robert Fogel & Dora Costa, 1997. "A theory of technophysio evolution, with some implications for forecasting population, health care costs, and pension costs," Demography, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 49-66, February.
  2. Dora Costa, 2000. "Understanding the twentieth-century decline in chronic conditions among older men," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 53-72, February.
  3. David M. Cutler & Grant Miller, 2004. "The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The 20th Century United States," NBER Working Papers 10511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Michael R. Haines, 2001. "The Urban Mortality Transition in the United States, 1800-1940," NBER Historical Working Papers 0134, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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