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PHS Monday Seminar: Lauren Schmitz, PhD, MS- The Influence of Early-life Economic Shocks on Long-term Health and Economic Well-being: Evidence from the U.S. Great Depression
October 12, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
La Follette School of Public Affairs
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Results from this study show that physical health and productivity around retirement age vary with exposure to economic conditions in early life. Using state-year-level variation from the most severe and prolonged economic downturn in American history—the Great Depression—combined with restricted micro-data from the Health and Retirement Study, we find that state-level changes in macroeconomic indicators in the first years of life are associated with changes in economic well-being, metabolic syndrome, and limitations in performing activities of daily living 60 years later. Using historical data from the U.S. Census, we show that these effects are not driven by endogenous fertility responses throughout the 1930s and that they likely represent lower bound estimates of the true impacts. From a policy perspective, these results are informative for the design of retirement and healthcare systems and for assessing the long-term costs of business cycles.