Water Purification Efforts and the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap, 1906-1938

30 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2019

See all articles by D. Mark Anderson

D. Mark Anderson

Montana State University - Bozeman - Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics

Kerwin Kofi Charles

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Daniel I. Rees

University of Colorado at Denver

Tianyi Wang

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

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Abstract

According to Troesken (2004), efforts to purify municipal water supplies at the turn of the 20th century dramatically improved the relative health of blacks. There is, however, little empirical evidence to support the Troesken hypothesis. Using city-level data published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census for the period 1906-1938, we explore the relationship between water purification efforts and the black-white infant mortality gap. Our results suggest that, while water filtration was effective across the board, adding chlorine to the water supply reduced mortality only among black infants. Specifically, chlorination is associated with an 11 percent reduction in black infant mortality and a 13 percent reduction in the black-white infant mortality gap. We also find that chlorination led to a substantial reduction in the black-white diarrhea mortality gap among children under the age of 2, although this estimate is measured with less precision.

Keywords: infant mortality, public health, black-white infant mortality gap

JEL Classification: I18, J11, J15, N3

Suggested Citation

Anderson, D. Mark and Charles, Kerwin Kofi and Rees, Daniel I. and Wang, Tianyi, Water Purification Efforts and the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap, 1906-1938. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12783, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492186

D. Mark Anderson (Contact Author)

Montana State University - Bozeman - Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics ( email )

Bozeman, MT 59717-2920
United States

Kerwin Kofi Charles

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
(773) 834-8922 (Phone)

Daniel I. Rees

University of Colorado at Denver

Box 173364
1250 14th Street
Denver, CO 80217
United States

Tianyi Wang

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4901 Wesley Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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