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I’m a survivor, keep on surviving: Early-life exposure to conflict and subjective survival probabilities in adult life

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Abstract

Life-course analyses have shown that early-life characteristics predict health and socioeconomic status in adult life. This study analyses whether experiencing a traumatic event in childhood, i.e. the Second World War (WW2), affects a novel adulthood outcome, i.e. perceived longevity. We rely on a representative sample of European adults who were differentially exposed to WW2 early in life depending on their date and place of birth. Our results show that exposure to WW2 increases expected longevity, with socio-economic and health characteristics not playing a mediating role neither in childhood nor in adulthood. War exposure also counterbalances the adverse effects of health impairments on subjective survival probabilities, but it does not affect health outcomes per se. This latter fact, jointly with low mortality rates of the cohort under investigation, suggests that selective mortality and post-traumatic stress are not the main drivers of our findings. Our evidence, instead, provides support to the hypothesis that personal growth and life appreciation emerge after traumatic events, thereby leading to optimistic perceptions of longevity among war-exposed respondents. Policy implications are discussed in the light of the importance of perceived survival for predicting future health and economic choices.

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  • Arpino, Bruno & Conzo, Pierluigi & Salustri, Francesco, 2019. "I’m a survivor, keep on surviving: Early-life exposure to conflict and subjective survival probabilities in adult life," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201904, University of Turin.
  • Handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:201904
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