Long-Term Effects of Famine on Life Expectancy: A Re-Analysis of the Great Finnish Famine of 1866-1868

23 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2011

See all articles by Gabriele Doblhammer-Reiter

Gabriele Doblhammer-Reiter

University of Rostock

Gerard J. van den Berg

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Tinbergen Institute

Lambert Lumey

Columbia University - Department of Epidemiology

Abstract

Famines are extreme cases of environmental stress, and have been used by a series of studies to explore the long-term consequences of the fetal or childhood environment. Results are inconsistent and do not support negative long-term effects on mortality. The authors test the hypothesis that selection during famine changes the frailty distributions of cohorts and may hide negative long-term effects. They use death counts from age 60+ from the Human Mortality Data Base for the birth cohorts 1850-1854, 1855-1859, 1860-1865, 1866-1868, 1869-1874, 1875-1879, 1880-1884 and 1885-1889 to explore the effect of being born during the Great Finnish Famine 1866-1868. Swedish cohorts without famine exposure are analysed as a control group. Cohorts born in Finland during the Great Finnish Famine are highly heterogeneous in their distribution of deaths after age 60. By contrast, cohorts born in the years immediately after the famine are particularly homogeneous. Accounting for these differences results into a lower remaining life expectancy at age 60 for cohorts born during the famine. Statistically, long-term effects of famine on mortality become only visible when changes in the frailty distribution of cohorts are explicitly considered.

Keywords: old-age mortality, selection, debilitation, early life circumstances

JEL Classification: I12, J11, C41

Suggested Citation

Doblhammer-Reiter, Gabriele and van den Berg, Gerard J. and Lumey, Lambert, Long-Term Effects of Famine on Life Expectancy: A Re-Analysis of the Great Finnish Famine of 1866-1868. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5534. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1771256

Gabriele Doblhammer-Reiter (Contact Author)

University of Rostock ( email )

Ulmenstr. 69
Rostock, 18057
Germany

Gerard J. Van den Berg

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Netherlands
+31 20 444 6132 (Phone)
+32 20 444 6020 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Tinbergen Institute

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Lambert Lumey

Columbia University - Department of Epidemiology ( email )

722 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
90
Abstract Views
1,101
rank
297,985
PlumX Metrics