This is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout

51 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2013 Last revised: 2 May 2013

See all articles by Sandra E. Black

Sandra E. Black

University of Texas at Austin - Center for Law, Business, and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Aline Bütikofer

University of Bern

Paul J. Devereux

University College Dublin - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: April 2013

Abstract

Research increasingly shows that differences in endowments at birth need not be genetic but instead are influenced by environmental factors while the fetus is in the womb. In addition, these differences may persist well beyond childhood. In this paper, we study one such environmental factor – exposure to radiation – that affects individuals across the socio-economic spectrum. We use variation in radioactive exposure throughout Norway in the 1950s and early 60s, resulting from the abundance of nuclear weapon testing during that time period, to examine the effect of nuclear exposure in utero on outcomes such as IQ scores, education, earnings, and adult height, as well as whether these effects persist into the next generation. We find that exposure to low-dose nuclear radiation, specifically during months 3 and 4 in utero, leads to a decline in IQ scores of men aged 18. Moreover, radiation exposure leads to declines in education attainment, high school completion, and earnings among men and women. We are also able to examine whether these effects persist across a second generation. Importantly, we find that the children of persons affected in utero also have lower cognitive scores, suggesting a persistent intergenerational effect of the shock to endowments. Given the lack of awareness about nuclear testing in Norway at this time, our estimates are likely to be unaffected by avoidance behavior or stress effects. These results are robust to the choice of specification and the inclusion of sibling fixed effects.

Suggested Citation

Black, Sandra E. and Bütikofer, Aline and Devereux, Paul J. and Salvanes, Kjell G., This is Only a Test? Long-Run Impacts of Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout (April 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18987. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2257178

Sandra E. Black (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Center for Law, Business, and Economics ( email )

Austin, TX
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

Aline Bütikofer

University of Bern ( email )

Gesellschaftsstrasse 49
Bern, BERN 3001
Switzerland

Paul J. Devereux

University College Dublin - Department of Economics ( email )

Dublin 4, 4
Ireland

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 5 595 9315 (Phone)
+47 5 595 9543 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

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