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Scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine

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  • Blum, Matthias
  • Colvin, Christopher L.
  • McLaughlin, Eoin

Abstract

What impact do famines have on survivors? We use individual-level data on a population exposed to severe famine conditions during infancy to document two opposing effects. The first: exposure to insufficient food and a worsened disease environment is associated with poor health into adulthood - a scarring effect. The second: famine survivors do not themselves suffer any health impact - a selection effect. Anthropometric evidence from records pertaining to over 21,000 subjects born before, during and after the Great Irish Famine (1845-52), one of modern history's most severe famine episodes, suggests that selection is strongest where famine mortality is highest. Individuals born in heavily-affected areas experienced no measurable stunted growth, while significant scarring was found only among those born in regions where the same famine did not result in any excess mortality.

Suggested Citation

  • Blum, Matthias & Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2017. "Scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-08, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:qucehw:201708
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    famine; fetal origins hypothesis; anthropometrics; economic history; Ireland;

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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