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The effects of the generalized use of iodized salt on occupational patterns in Switzerland

Dimitra Politi

No 2010-95, SIRE Discussion Papers from Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE)

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of salt iodization in Switzerland in the 1920s and 1930s on occupational patterns of cohorts born after the intervention. The generalized use of iodized salt successfully combatted iodine deficiency disorders, which were previously endemic in some areas of Switzerland. The most important effect of universal prophylaxis by means of iodized salt was the eradication of mental retardation inflicted in utero by lack of iodine. This paper looks for evidence of increased cognitive ability of those treated with iodine in utero by examining the occupational choice and characteristics of occupations chosen by cohorts born after the intervention. By exploiting variation in pre-existing conditions and in the timing of the intervention, I find that cohorts born in previously highly-deficient areas after the introduction of iodized salt self-selected into higher-paying occupations. I also find that the characteristics of occupations in those areas changed, and that cohorts born after the intervention engaged to a higher degree in occupations with higher cognitive demands, whereas they opted out of physical-labor-intensive occupations.

Keywords: Iodine deficiency; cognitive ability; occupational choice; human capital; productivity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010
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