Should you have your kids during an economic boom?

Children who are born during economic booms live longer than their counterparts born during leaner times. The result holds for a Dutch data set of 3000 individuals born between 1812 to 1912. Here is a summary of the research. Here is the paper itself. A ten percent improvement in economic product added three years to the average life in the data set. OK, that is not so shocking on its own terms. The surprise is that the beneficial effects of wealth are most determined by the level of national wealth in the first seven years of life. In other words, good child care pays off for a very long time. And bad macroeconomic conditions take their biggest toll on the young and the elderly. If you are born in poor times, your chance of dying early has its greatest spikes during your childhood or after the age of fifty. It remains to be seen whether these results generalize to current levels of wealth in the United States. To be sure, a bad macroeconomy raises stress and damages health, but I know of no modern data on whether the effects on children persist through time.

Addendum: Ken Hirsch suggests that: “It appears that in wealthy countries, within the last forty years, recessions actually reduce mortality. See the work of Chris Ruhm and those he references:

“Good Times Make You Sick”, Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 24, No. 4, July 2003, pp. 637-658.
“Does Drinking Really Decrease in Bad Times?” (with William E. Black), Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 659-678.
“Are Recessions Good For Your Health?”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 115, No. 2, May 2000, pp. 617-650.

“Healthy Living In Hard Times”, July 2003, submitted to the Journal of the European Economic Association, click here.

See also “Deaths Rise in Good Economic Times: Evidence From the OECD”, (with Ulf-G.Gerdtham), November 2002, submitted to the European Economic Review, click here.”

The references are from Hirsch, I have edited his remarks slightly so that the links flow with the text.


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