Economic Conditions at Birth and Later Mortality: Scarring or Selection?

Mikko Myrskylä, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Thuan Thai, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Prior research focusing on single countries suggests that children who were born in a boom have higher life expectancy than recession babies, mostly due to decreased old-age cardiovascular mortality. The difference is interpreted to reflect physiological scarring resulting from deprived conditions that recession babies experience in-utero or post-birth. We analyse the association between economic conditions at birth and later mortality in 9 countries covering the 1821-1917 birth cohorts. We find that the life expectancy advantage of boom babies is attributable to decreased mortality at ages 5-20. Moreover, the advantage is conditional on surviving to age 5 as boom babies have decreased odds of surviving to age 5. Old-age mortality is similar for boom and bust babies. The age pattern of differential mortality suggests that the boom babies’ life expectancy advantage results from early-life selection rather than scarring of the recession cohorts.

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Presented in Session 172: Economic Growth, Economic Shocks, and the Older Population