Is Fish Brain Food or Brain Poison? Sea Surface Temperature, Methyl-Mercury and Child Cognitive Development

77 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2020

See all articles by Mark R. Rosenzweig

Mark R. Rosenzweig

Yale University - Economic Growth Center; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Rafael J. Santos

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1, 2020

Abstract

We exploit variation in the composition of local fish catches around the time of birth using largescale administrative and census data on adult cognitive test scores, schooling attainment, and occupation among coastal populations in Colombia to estimate the distinct causal effects of methylmercury (MeHg) and DHA, elements contained in fish, on cognitive development. Using an IV strategy based on an equilibrium model of fish supply that exploits time-series variation in oceanic SST anomalies on both coasts of Colombia from 1950 to 2014 as instruments, we find that net of cohort and municipality fixed effects increases in high-MeHg fish catches around a cohort’s birth, net of rainfall variation in the same interval, negatively affect the cohort’s verbal and math test scores upon exiting high school and their likelihood of continuing their schooling, while increasing the likelihood the cohort is disproportionally represented in manual-labor occupations. In contrast, for given levels of early-life high-MeHg fish supply, increases in early-life catch sizes of low-MeHg fish raise verbal and math test scores and educational attainment and lower the likelihood of being a manual laborer.

JEL Classification: O15, J13, Q22, Q53

Suggested Citation

Rosenzweig, Mark Richard and Santos, Rafael J., Is Fish Brain Food or Brain Poison? Sea Surface Temperature, Methyl-Mercury and Child Cognitive Development (March 1, 2020). Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 1072, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3570110 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3570110

Mark Richard Rosenzweig (Contact Author)

Yale University - Economic Growth Center ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States
203-432-3620 (Phone)

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Rafael J. Santos

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics ( email )

Carrera 1a No. 18A-10
Santafe de Bogota, AA4976
Colombia

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