Exposure to Neighborhood Income Inequality in Childhood and Later-Life Mortality, Sweden 1939-2015

Finn Hedefalk, Lund University
Gabriel Brea Martínez, Centre for Economic Demography, Department of Economic History, Lund University
Therese Nilsson, Lund University

This paper studies exposure to environmental pollution in childhood and health in adulthood. There is a clear relationship between the physical environment and various health outcomes. Here, the physical characteristics of the environment that individuals are exposed to throughout their childhood have lasting effects on later-life health. For example, exposure to air pollution such as lead exposure affects the cognitive development of children, and the overall built environment and the presence of green spaces influence the wellbeing of individuals. In addition to the physical environment, family context as well as the neighborhoods in childhood are important for individual health-outcomes in adulthood. We use geocoded longitudinal microdata for the city of Landskrona, 1939-1967, linked to Swedish national registers, 1968-2015, to analyze how exposure to environmental pollution, such as air pollution, in childhood influence health in adulthood. For the period 1939-1967, approximately 77,000 individuals are geocoded at address-level, and we observe their full residential histories within the city. Because of the long-term and nationwide follow-up, we account for selective out-migration. To measure adulthood health outcomes, we use detailed information on cause-specific mortality and hospital admissions. We measure exposure to air pollution by combining historical geographical information on buildings, roads, industries, green areas, and elevation, with information on population density. Hence, we use social and spatial information at the micro-level to estimate cumulative and time-varying environmental exposure throughout childhood. As we have detailed economic, social, and demographic information of each individual, we can accurately control for the social aspects in the family and neighborhood as well. We primarily use spatial regression analysis, including individual- and family-level socioeconomic and demographic data and dynamic measures of the physical environmental properties. Our main contribution is to analyze exposure to environmental pollution in childhood at the micro-level and the implications the life-course over a long period.

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 Presented in Session 37. Institutions, Health, and the Environment