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The Rise and Fall of Pellagra in the American South

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  • Karen Clay
  • Ethan Schmick
  • Werner Troesken

Abstract

We explore the rise and fall of pellagra, a disease caused by inadequate niacin consumption, in the American South, focusing on the first half of the twentieth century. We first consider the hypothesis that the South’s monoculture in cotton undermined nutrition by displacing local food production. Consistent with this hypothesis, a difference-in-differences estimation shows that after the arrival of the boll weevil, food production in affected counties rose while cotton production and pellagra rates fell. The results also suggest that after 1937 improved medical understanding and state fortification laws helped eliminate pellagra.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Clay & Ethan Schmick & Werner Troesken, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of Pellagra in the American South," NBER Working Papers 23730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23730
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N52 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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