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Scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine

Matthias Blum (), Christopher Colvin () and Eoin McLaughlin ()

No 2017-08, QUCEH Working Paper Series from Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History

Abstract: What impact do famines have on survivors? We use individual-level data on a population exposed to severe famine conditions during infancy to document two opposing effects. The first: exposure to insufficient food and a worsened disease environment is associated with poor health into adulthood - a scarring effect. The second: famine survivors do not themselves suffer any health impact - a selection effect. Anthropometric evidence from records pertaining to over 21,000 subjects born before, during and after the Great Irish Famine (1845-52), one of modern history's most severe famine episodes, suggests that selection is strongest where famine mortality is highest. Individuals born in heavily-affected areas experienced no measurable stunted growth, while significant scarring was found only among those born in regions where the same famine did not result in any excess mortality.

Keywords: famine; fetal origins hypothesis; anthropometrics; economic history; Ireland (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I15 I32 N33 Q54 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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