Births, Deaths, and New Deal Relief During the Great Depression

58 Pages Posted: 17 May 2005 Last revised: 26 Mar 2021

See all articles by Price V. Fishback

Price V. Fishback

University of Arizona; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael R. Haines

Colgate University - Economics Department; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Shawn Kantor

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: April 2005

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of New Deal relief programs on infant mortality, noninfant mortality and general fertility rates in major U.S. cities between 1929 and 1940. We estimate the effects using a variety of specifications and techniques for a panel of 114 cities for which data on relief spending during the 1930s were available. The significant rise in relief spending during the New Deal contributed to reductions in infant mortality, suicide rates, and some other causes of death, while contributing to increases in the general fertility rate. Estimates of the relationship between economic activity and death rates suggest that many types of death rates were pro-cyclical, similar to Ruhm's (2000) findings for the modern U.S.. Estimates of the relief costs associated with saving a life (adjusted for inflation) are similar to estimates found in studies of modern social insurance programs.

Suggested Citation

Fishback, Price V. and Haines, Michael R. and Kantor, Shawn, Births, Deaths, and New Deal Relief During the Great Depression (April 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11246, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=697171

Price V. Fishback (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

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Michael R. Haines

Colgate University - Economics Department ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

Shawn Kantor

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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