The Welfare of Children During the Great Depression

34 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2002 Last revised: 30 Apr 2021

See all articles by Price V. Fishback

Price V. Fishback

University of Arizona; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael R. Haines

Colgate University - Economics Department; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Shawn Kantor

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: April 2002

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of New Deal relief programs on demographic outcomes in major U.S. cities during the 1930s. A five-equation structural model is estimated that tests the effect of the relief spending on infant mortality, non-infant mortality, and fertility. For 111 cities for which data on relief spending during the 1930s were available, we collected annual data that matched the relief spending to the demographic variables, socioeconomic descriptions of the cities, and retail sales, which serve as a proxy for the level of economic activity. Relief spending directly lowered infant mortality rates to the degree that changes in relief spending can explain nearly one-third of the decline in infant mortality during the 1930s. Relief spending also raised general fertility rates. Our estimates suggest that the cost of saving an infant life during this period ranged from $2 to 4.5 million dollars (measured in year 2000 dollars). This range is similar to that found in modern studies of the effect of Medicaid and is within the range of market values of human life.

Suggested Citation

Fishback, Price V. and Haines, Michael R. and Kantor, Shawn, The Welfare of Children During the Great Depression (April 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w8902, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=307872

Price V. Fishback (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States
520-621-4421 (Phone)
520-621-8450 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Michael R. Haines

Colgate University - Economics Department ( email )

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315-228-7536 (Phone)
315-228-7726 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Shawn Kantor

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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