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This Is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout

Author

Listed:
  • Sandra E. Black
  • Aline Bütikofer
  • Paul J. Devereux
  • Kjell G. Salvanes

Abstract

Research increasingly shows that differences in endowments at birth need not be genetic but instead are influenced by environmental factors while the fetus is in the womb. In addition, these differences may persist well beyond childhood. In this paper, we study one such environmental factor – exposure to radiation – that affects individuals across the socio-economic spectrum. We use variation in radioactive exposure throughout Norway in the 1950s and early 60s, resulting from the abundance of nuclear weapon testing during that time period, to examine the effect of nuclear exposure in utero on outcomes such as IQ scores, education, earnings, and adult height, as well as whether these effects persist into the next generation. We find that exposure to low-dose nuclear radiation, specifically during months 3 and 4 in utero, leads to a decline in IQ scores of men aged 18. Moreover, radiation exposure leads to declines in education attainment, high school completion, and earnings among men and women. We are also able to examine whether these effects persist across a second generation. Importantly, we find that the children of persons affected in utero also have lower cognitive scores, suggesting a persistent intergenerational effect of the shock to endowments. Given the lack of awareness about nuclear testing in Norway at this time, our estimates are likely to be unaffected by avoidance behavior or stress effects. These results are robust to the choice of specification and the inclusion of sibling fixed effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra E. Black & Aline Bütikofer & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2013. "This Is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout," NBER Working Papers 18987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18987
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 409-439.
    2. 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.
    3. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
    4. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
    5. Fertig, Angela R. & Watson, Tara, 2009. "Minimum drinking age laws and infant health outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 737-747, May.
    6. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "Biology as Destiny? Short- and Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 231-264.
    7. Currie, Janet & Neidell, Matthew & Schmieder, Johannes F., 2009. "Air pollution and infant health: Lessons from New Jersey," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 688-703, May.
    8. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
    9. Elaine Kelly, 2011. "The Scourge of Asian Flu: In utero Exposure to Pandemic Influenza and the Development of a Cohort of British Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(4), pages 669-694.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Bruederle & Roland Hodler, 2017. "The Effect of Oil Spills on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Nigeria," CESifo Working Paper Series 6653, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Sandra Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2014. "Does grief transfer across generations? In-utero deaths and child outcomes," NBER Working Papers 19979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2017. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," NBER Working Papers 23017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. María Fernanda Rosales, 2014. "Impact of Early Life Shocks on Human Capital Formation: El Niño Floods in Ecuador," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 87693, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. Caterina Gennaioli & Gaia Narciso, 2017. "Toxic roads: Unearthing hazardous waste dumping," Trinity Economics Papers tep1817, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    6. Rossin-Slater, Maya & Wüst, Miriam, 2016. "What is the Added Value of Preschool? Long-Term Impacts and Interactions with a Health Intervention," IZA Discussion Papers 10254, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Halla, Martin & Zweimüller, Martina, 2014. "Parental Response to Early Human Capital Shocks: Evidence from the Chernobyl Accident," IZA Discussion Papers 7968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. repec:aea:aecrev:v:108:y:2018:i:4-5:p:1214-52 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Chloe N. East & Sarah Miller & Marianne Page & Laura R. Wherry, 2017. "Multi-generational Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net: Early Life Exposure to Medicaid and the Next Generation’s Health," NBER Working Papers 23810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Schwandt, Hannes, 2017. "The Lasting Legacy of Seasonal Influenza: In-utero Exposure and Labor Market Outcomes," COHERE Working Paper 2017:5, University of Southern Denmark, COHERE - Centre of Health Economics Research.
    11. Claudia Persico & David Figlio & Jeffrey Roth, 2016. "Inequality Before Birth: The Developmental Consequences of Environmental Toxicants," NBER Working Papers 22263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Maya Rossin-Slater & Miriam Wüst, 2016. "What is the Added Value of Preschool? Long-term Impacts and Interactions with a Health Intervention," NBER Working Papers 22700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Danzer, Alexander M. & Danzer, Natalia, 2016. "The long-run consequences of Chernobyl: Evidence on subjective well-being, mental health and welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 47-60.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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