IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/16480.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Lead and Mortality

Author

Listed:
  • Karen Clay
  • Werner Troesken
  • Michael R. Haines

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of water-borne lead exposure on infant mortality in American cities over the period 1900-1920. Infants are highly sensitive to lead, and more broadly are a marker for current environmental conditions. The effects of lead on infant mortality are identified by variation across cities in water acidity and the types of service pipes that the water ran through - lead, iron, or concrete - which together determined the extent of lead exposure. Estimates that restrict the sample to cities with lead pipes and panel estimates provide further support for the causal link between water-borne lead and infant mortality. The magnitudes of the effects were large. In 1900, a decline in exposure equivalent to an increase in pH from 6.675 (25th percentile) to 7.3 (50th percentile) in cities with lead-only pipes would have been associated with a decrease in infant mortality of 7 to 33 percent or at least 12 fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This paper examines the effect of water-borne lead exposure on infant mortality in American cities over the period 1900-1920. Infants are highly sensitive to lead, and more broadly are a marker for current environmental conditions. The effects of lead on infant mortality are identified by variation across cities in water acidity and the types of service pipes that the water ran through - lead, iron, or concrete - which together determined the extent of lead exposure. Estimates that restrict the sample to cities with lead pipes and panel estimates provide further support for the causal link between water-borne lead and infant mortality. The magnitudes of the effects were large. In 1900, a decline in exposure equivalent to an increase in pH from 6.675 (25th percentile) to 7.3 (50th percentile) in cities with lead-only pipes would have been associated with a decrease in infant mortality of 7 to 33 percent or at least 12 fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Clay & Werner Troesken & Michael R. Haines, 2010. "Lead and Mortality," NBER Working Papers 16480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16480
    Note: DAE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16480.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
    2. Kim, Sukkoo & Margo, Robert A., 2004. "Historical perspectives on U.S. economic geography," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 66, pages 2981-3019, Elsevier.
    3. Werner Troesken, 2008. "The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262701251, December.
    4. Bloom, David E. & Canning, David & Sevilla, Jaypee, 2004. "The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: A Production Function Approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 1-13, January.
    5. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
    6. 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.
    7. Fogel, Robert W, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 369-395, June.
    8. Werner Troesken, 2004. "Water, Race, and Disease," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262201488, December.
    9. Nelson, Richard R & Wright, Gavin, 1992. "The Rise and Fall of American Technological Leadership: The Postwar Era in Historical Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(4), pages 1931-1964, December.
    10. Reyes Jessica Wolpaw, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-43, October.
    11. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2007. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 925-985, December.
    12. 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, July.
    13. Bittlingmayer, George, 1982. "Decreasing Average Cost and Competition: A New Look at the Addyston Pipe Case," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 201-229, October.
    14. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2005. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: What Can We Learn from California's Recent Experience?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 120(3), pages 1003-1030.
    15. Powell, Mark R., 1997. "The 1991 Lead/Copper Drinking Water Rule and the 1995 Decision Not to Revise the Arsenic Drinking Water Rule: Two Case Studies in EPA's Use of Science," Discussion Papers 10454, Resources for the Future.
    16. Levin, Henry M, 1986. "A Benefit-Cost Analysis of Nutritional Programs for Anemia Reduction," The World Bank Research Observer, World Bank, vol. 1(2), pages 219-245, July.
    17. Davis,Lance E. & Gallman,Robert E., 2001. "Evolving Financial Markets and International Capital Flows," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521553520, November.
    18. Alwyn Young, 2005. "The Gift of the Dying: The Tragedy of AIDS and the Welfare of Future African Generations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 120(2), pages 423-466.
    19. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," NBER Working Papers 13097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Wright, Gavin, 1990. "The Origins of American Industrial Success, 1879-1940," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 651-668, September.
    21. Werner Troesken, 2008. "Lead Water Pipes and Infant Mortality at the Turn of the Twentieth Century," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 553-575.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Alex Hollingsworth & Ivan Rudik, 2021. "The Effect of Leaded Gasoline on Elderly Mortality: Evidence from Regulatory Exemptions," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 345-373, August.
    2. Feigenbaum, James J. & Muller, Christopher, 2016. "Lead exposure and violent crime in the early twentieth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 51-86.
    3. Knutsson, Daniel, 2017. "Water Improvement and Health: Historical Evidence on the Effect of Filtering Water on Urban Mortality," Research Papers in Economics 2017:2, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    4. Sanders, Nicholas J. & Stoecker, Charles, 2015. "Where have all the young men gone? Using sex ratios to measure fetal death rates," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 30-45.
    5. Daniel S. Grossman & David J.G. Slusky, 2019. "The Impact of the Flint Water Crisis on Fertility," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(6), pages 2005-2031, December.
    6. Joshua Graff Zivin & Matthew Neidell, 2013. "Environment, Health, and Human Capital," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(3), pages 689-730, September.
    7. Nicole Gorton & Maxim L. Pinkovskiy, 2021. "Credit Access and Mobility during the Flint Water Crisis," Staff Reports 960, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    8. Ziebarth, N. R. & Schmitt, M. & Karlsson, M., 2013. "The short-term population health effects of weather and pollution: implications of climate change," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 13/34, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    9. Cozzi, Guido & Galli, Silvia & Mantovan, Noemi, 2018. "Will a shrink make you richer? Gender differences in the effects of psychotherapy on labour efficiency," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 257-274.
    10. Gazze, Ludovica & Heissel, Jennifer, 2021. "Infrastructure upgrades and lead exposure: Do cities face trade-offs when replacing water mains?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    11. Davide Cantoni & Noam Yuchtman, 2020. "Historical Natural Experiments: Bridging Economics and Economic History," NBER Working Papers 26754, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Mettetal, Elizabeth, 2019. "Irrigation dams, water and infant mortality: Evidence from South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 17-40.
    13. Federico Curci & Federico Masera, 2018. "Flight from urban blight: lead poisoning, crime and suburbanization," Working Papers 2018/09, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    14. Hoehn-Velasco, Lauren, 2018. "Explaining declines in US rural mortality, 1910–1933: The role of county health departments," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 42-72.
    15. Peter Juul Egedesø & Casper Worm Hansen & Peter Sandholt Jensen, 2020. "Preventing the White Death: Tuberculosis Dispensaries," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 130(629), pages 1288-1316.
    16. Hyde, Kelly, 2020. "The Regressive Costs of Drinking Water Contaminant Avoidance," GLO Discussion Paper Series 703, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    17. Zhang, Ruohao & Li, Huan & Khanna, Neha, 2021. "Environmental justice and the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from New York State," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 110(C).
    18. Meyers, Keith A., 2017. "In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear Testing, Radioactive Fallout and Damage to U.S. Agriculture," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258121, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    19. Ferrie, Joseph P. & Rolf, Karen & Troesken, Werner, 2012. "Cognitive disparities, lead plumbing, and water chemistry: Prior exposure to water-borne lead and intelligence test scores among World War Two U.S. Army enlistees," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 98-111.
    20. Pang, Yu, 2018. "Profitable pollution abatement? A worker productivity perspective," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 33-49.
    21. Clay, Karen & Egedesø, Peter Juul & Hansen, Casper Worm & Jensen, Peter Sandholt & Calkins, Avery, 2020. "Controlling tuberculosis? Evidence from the first community-wide health experiment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    22. Tomás Rau & Loreto Reyes & Sergio S. Urzúa, 2013. "The Long-term Effects of Early Lead Exposure: Evidence from a case of Environmental Negligence," NBER Working Papers 18915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Joseph P. Ferrie & Karen Rolf & Werner Troesken, 2011. "Cognitive Disparities, Lead Plumbing, and Water Chemistry: Intelligence Test Scores and Exposure to Water-Borne Lead Among World War Two U.S. Army Enlistees," NBER Working Papers 17161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Werner Troesken, 2010. "Lead, Mortality, and Productivity," Working Paper 424, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh, revised Jan 2010.
    2. Weil, David N., 2014. "Health and Economic Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 3, pages 623-682, Elsevier.
    3. Feigenbaum, James J. & Muller, Christopher, 2016. "Lead exposure and violent crime in the early twentieth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 51-86.
    4. Dora L. Costa, 2015. "Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(3), pages 503-570, September.
    5. McNamara, Paul E. & Ulimwengu, John M. & Leonard, Kenneth L., 2010. "Do health investments improve agricultural productivity? Lessons from agricultural household and health research," IFPRI discussion papers 1012, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Bloom, David E. & Canning, David & Kotschy, Rainer & Prettner, Klaus & Schünemann, Johannes, 2024. "Health and economic growth: Reconciling the micro and macro evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 178(C).
    7. David N. Weil, 2005. "Accounting for the Effect of Health on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 11455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Husain, Muhammad Jami, 2010. "Contribution of health to economic development: A survey and overview," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 4, pages 1-52.
    9. Schultz, T. Paul, 2010. "Population and Health Policies," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Dani Rodrik & Mark Rosenzweig (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 4785-4881, Elsevier.
    10. David Cutler & Angus Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "The Determinants of Mortality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 97-120, Summer.
    11. Gallardo-Albarrán, Daniel, 2018. "Health and economic development since 1900," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 228-237.
    12. Bloom, David E. & Kuhn, Michael & Prettner, Klaus, 2018. "Health and Economic Growth," IZA Discussion Papers 11939, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Hoehn-Velasco, Lauren, 2018. "Explaining declines in US rural mortality, 1910–1933: The role of county health departments," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 42-72.
    14. Joshua Graff Zivin & Matthew Neidell, 2013. "Environment, Health, and Human Capital," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(3), pages 689-730, September.
    15. Francis Makamu & Mehtabul Azam & Harounan Kazianga, 2018. "Returns to Controlling a Neglected Tropical Disease: Schistosomiasis Control Programme and Education Outcomes in Nigeria," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies, vol. 27(5), pages 538-557.
    16. Zakir Husain & Mousumi Dutta & Nidhi Chowdhary, 2014. "Is Health Wealth? Results of a Panel Data Analysis," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 117(1), pages 121-143, May.
    17. Tompsett, Anna, 2020. "The Lazarus drug: the impact of antiretroviral therapy on economic growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    18. David Canning, 2012. "Progress in Health around the World," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(12), pages 1784-1798, December.
    19. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2007. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 925-985, December.
    20. Philippe Aghion & Peter Howitt & Fabrice Murtin, 2011. "The Relationship Between Health and Growth: When Lucas Meets Nelson-Phelps," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 2(1).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16480. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: the person in charge (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.