Opportunity for Health

Shadows of the Captain of the Men of Death: Early Life Health Interventions, Human Capital Investments, and Institutions

SSRN · August 8, 2015

We leverage introduction of the first antibiotic therapies in 1937 to examine impacts of pneumonia in infancy on adult education, employment, disability, income and income mobility, and identify large impacts on each. We then examine how racial segregation in the pre-Civil Rights Era moderated the long-run benefits of antibiotics among blacks. We find that blacks born in more segregated states reaped smaller and less pervasive long run benefits despite sharp drops in pneumonia exposure. Our findings demonstrate causal effects of early life health on economic mobility and the importance of an investment-rewarding institutional environment in realization of the full potential of a healthy start.