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The Welfare of Children During the Great Depression

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  • Price V. Fishback
  • Michael R. Haines
  • Shawn Kantor

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of New Deal relief programs on demographic outcomes in major U.S. cities during the 1930s. A five-equation structural model is estimated that tests the effect of the relief spending on infant mortality, non-infant mortality, and fertility. For 111 cities for which data on relief spending during the 1930s were available, we collected annual data that matched the relief spending to the demographic variables, socioeconomic descriptions of the cities, and retail sales, which serve as a proxy for the level of economic activity. Relief spending directly lowered infant mortality rates to the degree that changes in relief spending can explain nearly one-third of the decline in infant mortality during the 1930s. Relief spending also raised general fertility rates. Our estimates suggest that the cost of saving an infant life during this period ranged from $2 to 4.5 million dollars (measured in year 2000 dollars). This range is similar to that found in modern studies of the effect of Medicaid and is within the range of market values of human life.

Suggested Citation

  • Price V. Fishback & Michael R. Haines & Shawn Kantor, 2002. "The Welfare of Children During the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 8902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8902
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David M. Blau, 1999. "The Effect Of Income On Child Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 261-276, May.
    2. Rebecca Blank, 1995. "Teen pregnancy: government programs are not the cause," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(2), pages 47-58.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gruber, Jonathan & Hungerman, Daniel M., 2007. "Faith-based charity and crowd-out during the great depression," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 1043-1069, June.
    2. Cai, Zongwu & Fang, Ying & Su, Jia, 2012. "Reducing asymptotic bias of weak instrumental estimation using independently repeated cross-sectional information," Statistics & Probability Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 180-185.
    3. Zongwu Cai & Ying Fang, 2013. "Reducing the Asymptotic Bias of Weak Instruments Estimation Using Independently Repeated Cross-sectional Information," WISE Working Papers 2013-10-14, Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics (WISE), Xiamen University.
    4. Cousins, Mel, 2005. "The impact of the introduction of social welfare schemes in Ireland, (1930s-1950s)," MPRA Paper 3490, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Fishback, Price V. & Horrace, William C. & Kantor, Shawn, 2006. "The impact of New Deal expenditures on mobility during the Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 179-222, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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