Why People Born During World War II are Healthier

52 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2017

See all articles by Reyn van Ewijk

Reyn van Ewijk

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Department of Economics

Maarten Lindeboom

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute Amsterdam; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: October 10, 2017


War leads civilians to suffer. This can take extreme forms, such as during periods of intense violence or famines. But also outside of such episodes, civilians’ lives during wars can be harsh, as they suffer from poorer nutritional situations, stress, recessions, and sub optimally functioning health care systems. The more extreme types of suffering are proven to lead to a worse health among those prenatally exposed to them. But long-run effects of prenatal exposure to the latter circumstances have thus far largely been unexplored, even though in many wars more pregnant women are exposed to these “everyday” circumstances than to the extreme circumstances. We study the general, population-wide effects of prenatal World War II exposure in three occupied countries: France, Belgium and The Netherlands, without zooming in on specific severe episodes such as the Dutch famine. We show that – contrary to expectations – prenatal exposure to WWII does not lead to poorer health among the older population. We even find strong indications for a better health, especially among exposed females, but demonstrate that this is due to selective mortality among the war cohorts during infanthood and to selective fertility during WWII. As these selection effects are likely to be stronger during more extreme historical circumstances than the ones studied here, previous research on long-term effects of such prenatal exposures may have underestimated effects. Long-run negative population-wide health effects from prenatal WWII exposure in France, Belgium and The Netherlands are absent or at most very small.

Keywords: World War 2, World War II, Early Life, War, Health, Fetal Origins, Elderly, Europe

JEL Classification: I10, J14, N34

Suggested Citation

van Ewijk, Reyn and Lindeboom, Maarten, Why People Born During World War II are Healthier (October 10, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3054480 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3054480

Reyn Van Ewijk (Contact Author)

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Department of Economics ( email )

Saarstrasse 21
Mainz, D-55099

HOME PAGE: http://www.econometrics.economics.uni-mainz.de/392.php

Maarten Lindeboom

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
+31 20 444 6033 (Phone)
+31 20 444 6020 (Fax)

Tinbergen Institute Amsterdam

Gustav Mahlerplein 117
Amsterdam, 1082 MS

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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