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

29 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2019 Last revised: 19 May 2021

See all articles by D. Mark Anderson

D. Mark Anderson

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

Kerwin Kofi Charles

Yale School of Management

Daniel I. Rees

University of Colorado Denver; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tianyi Wang

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2019

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.

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 (November 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26489, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492892

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

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Daniel I. Rees

University of Colorado Denver ( email )

Campus Box 181
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80218
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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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