Exploring the Built and Social Determinants of Health in a 20th Century Industrial City

Tim Stone, Michigan Technological University
Don Lafreniere, Michigan Technological University
Dan Trepal, Michigan Technological University

The built and social environments in which children lived in industrial cities in 20th century America is a valuable yet largely underrepresented area of study. The study of the historic industrial city can provide remarkable insight into child-city dynamics with contemporary implications such as fighting the childhood obesity epidemic, generally improving children’s standard of living, and better-informing the creation of policies that will impact children. In addition, studies of this type will provide insights into how children were impacted by environmental factors that have traditionally been studied in adults, such as proximity to noxious land uses and residential crowding. To do this, we utilize the Copper Country Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure (or CCHSDI), which is a spatial-temporally linked historical geographic information system built on period-accurate Sanborn Fire Insurance Plans (FIPS). The CCHSDI links built, social, and environmental variables across seven decades from 1880-1950, with our focus being on the towns of Calumet and Laurium in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On the individual scale, the CCHSDI links Polk City Directories, IPUMS full-count census data, mining company employee records, hospital records, and school records from the local public schools across space and time. These school records provide the basis for this project, spanning from 1904-1926. We use projections from the World Bank’s Industrial Pollution Projection System as well as other geographic and social variables to create indices that measure the relative risk each student experiences with regards to both infectious and chronic disease. Using these datasets, we gain a more holistic view of a child’s day than has traditionally been achieved. Preliminary results show that residential crowding, proximity to noxious land use, and recent immigration negatively impact children’s health.

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