Evidence on early-life income and late-life health from America's Dust Bowl era.

TitleEvidence on early-life income and late-life health from America's Dust Bowl era.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsCutler, DM, Miller, G, Norton, DM
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Date Published2007 Aug 14
ISSN Number0027-8424
KeywordsAged, Data collection, Female, Health Status, History, 20th Century, Humans, Income, Male, Middle Aged, Retirement, Socioeconomic factors, United States

In recent decades, elderly Americans have enjoyed enormous gains in longevity and reductions in disability. The causes of this progress remain unclear, however. This paper investigates the role of fetal programming, exploring how economic progress early in the 20th century might be related to declining disability today. Specifically, we match sudden unexpected economic changes experienced in utero in America's Dust Bowl during the Great Depression to unusually detailed individual-level information about old-age disability and chronic disease. We are unable to detect any meaningful relationship between early life factors and outcomes in later life. We conclude that, if such a relationship exists in the United States, it is most likely not a quantitatively important explanation for declining disability today.

Citation Key8741
PubMed ID17686988
PubMed Central IDPMC1948901
Grant ListU01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States