Poor Childhood Health and Sibling Outcomes: The Shared Burden of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

John M. Parman, College of William and Mary

Poor childhood health has a direct impact on human capital accumulation through its effects on a child's ability to attend school and the returns to that schooling. However, by altering the price of human capital investment, the poor health of one child can also influence a family's decisions regarding investment in other siblings. This paper presents a new dataset of children born in the years surrounding the 1918 influenza pandemic linked from their childhood census records to military records containing adult health, educational and occupational outcomes. These data allow for estimating the effects of in utero influenza exposure on subsequent educational and health outcomes for both the exposed individual and his or her siblings. The results demonstrate that families changed fertility patterns and educational investment decisions for all children in the family in response to a severe health shock to one child.

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Presented in Session 45: Economic Circumstances, Child Health, and Well-Being