The Phenomenon of Summer Diarrhea and its Waning, 1910-1930

65 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2019 Last revised: 11 Sep 2021

See all articles by D. Mark Anderson

D. Mark Anderson

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

Daniel I. Rees

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

Tianyi Wang

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

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Date Written: March 2019

Abstract

During the first two decades of the 20th century, diarrheal deaths among American infants and children surged every summer. Although we still do not know what pathogen (or pathogens) caused this phenomenon, the consensus view is that it was eventually controlled through public health efforts at the municipal level. Using data from 26 major American cities for the period 1910-1930, we document the phenomenon of summer diarrhea and explore its dissipation. We find that water filtration is associated with a 15-17 percent reduction in diarrheal mortality among children under the age of two during the non-summer months, but does not seem to have had an effect on diarrheal mortality during the summer. In general, we find little evidence to suggest that public health interventions undertaken at the municipal level contributed to the dissipation of summer diarrhea. Our results are relevant for many parts of the developing world today, where climate change is expected to affect the length and intensity of seasons as well as the incidence of diarrheal diseases.

Suggested Citation

Anderson, D. Mark and Rees, Daniel I. and Wang, Tianyi, The Phenomenon of Summer Diarrhea and its Waning, 1910-1930 (March 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25689, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3360830

D. Mark Anderson (Contact Author)

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

Bozeman, MT 59717-2920
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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