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Who should own and control urban water systems? Disease and the municipalisation of private waterworks in nineteenth-century England

Nicola Tynan, Brian Beach () and Werner Troesken
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Nicola Tynan: Dickinson College

No 16006, Working Papers from Economic History Society

Abstract: "Nearly one third of England’s more than 300 privately built waterworks became publicly owned by 1910. In this paper, we study the extent to which public acquisition affected deaths from typhoid fever, a waterborne disease. We collect annual district-level typhoid fatality rates from 1869 to 1910, which are then paired with detailed waterworks information. By exploiting the variation in municipalization across time, we find that deaths from typhoid fever fell by approximately 19 percent in the years following municipalization. The effect is even larger for older waterworks. Although a large body of previous research has explored how the switch between public and private ownership affects waterborne disease rates, that research yields conflicting results and is limited to the United States and Argentina. The data and identification strategies we employ help reconcile these results and allow us to better disentangle the effects of epidemics and changes in ownership regimes."

JEL-codes: N00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016-04
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