Upswing in Industrial Activity and Infant Mortality during Late 19th Century US
- Pollution, Infant mortality, Gender ratio, 19th Century, Health.
This paper aims to assess the effects of industrial pollution on infant mortality between the years 1850-1940 using full count decennial censuses. In this period, US economy experienced a tremendous rise in industrial activity with significant variation among different counties in absorbing manufacturing industries. Since manufacturing industries are shown to be the main source of pollution, we use the share of employment at the county level in this industry to proxy for space-time variation in industrial pollution. Since male embryos are more vulnerable to external stressors like pollution during prenatal development, they will face higher likelihood of fetal death. Therefore, we proxy infant mortality with different measures of gender ratio. We show that the upswing in industrial pollution during late nineteenth century and early twentieth century has led to an increase in infant mortality. The results are consistent and robust across different scenarios, measures for our proxies, and aggregation levels. We find that infants and more specifically male infants had paid the price of pollution during upswing in industrial growth at the dawn of the 20th century. Contemporary datasets are used to verify the validity of the proxies. Some policy implications are discussed.