Long-Run Effects on Longevity of a Nutritional Shock in Early Life: The Dutch Potato Famine of 1846-1847
France Portrait, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Maarten M. Lindeboom, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Tinbergen Institute
Gerard G.J. van den Berg, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Tinbergen Institute
This paper investigates whether nutritional shocks in early life negatively affect longevity at older ages, using unique individual data and exploiting the exogenous variation implied by natural experiments. In particular, early nutritional conditions are instrumented by exposure to the severe Dutch potato famine of 1846-47. The individual data are from the Historical Sample of the Netherlands and are augmented by food price data and macro-economic data. We compare non-parametrically (residual) lifetimes of men and women, exposed and not exposed to the famine. We also estimate survival models in which we control for other individual characteristics and additional (early life) determinants of mortality. Men exposed to severe famine during pregnancy (at least four months) and directly after birth have a significant lower residual life expectancy at age 50 than others, but not at earlier ages. We could not demonstrate any long-run effects for men exposed at ages 0-2 and for women.