Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Maternal Fasting During Pregnancy

79 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2008 Last revised: 5 Jun 2021

See all articles by Douglas Almond

Douglas Almond

Columbia University - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bhashkar Mazumder

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2008

Abstract

We use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in fasting and fetal health. In Michigan births 1989-2006, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan among Arab mothers results in lower birthweight and reduced gestation length. Exposure to Ramadan in the first month of gestation is also associated with a sizable reduction in the number of male births. In Census data for Uganda, Iraq, and the US we find strong associations between in utero exposure to Ramadan and the likelihood of being disabled as an adult. Effects are particularly large for mental (or learning) disabilities. We also find significant effects on proxies for wealth, earnings, the sex composition of the adult population, and more suggestive evidence of effects on schooling. We find no evidence that negative selection in conceptions during Ramadan accounts for our findings, suggesting that avoiding Ramadan exposure during pregnancy is costly or the long-term effects of fasting unknown.

Suggested Citation

Almond, Douglas Vincent and Mazumder, Bhashkar, Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Maternal Fasting During Pregnancy (October 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14428, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1288427

Douglas Vincent Almond (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

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Bhashkar Mazumder

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

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