Long-Term Health Consequences of Early Exposure to the China 1959-1961 Famine

Cheng Huang, Emory University
Reynaldo Martorell, Emory University

Based on unique data from a birth defect intervention study in China, this paper assesses the long-term health consequences of early exposure to the China 1959-1961 famine. We find that the famine has resulted in significantly negative health consequences among women who were born or in prenatal period during the famine years. We also find evidence for the “selective survival” hypothesis that famine survivors may be more genetically robust than others, as the results show that the children of the women born in 1959 were taller and heavier at birth than the children of other birth cohorts. With adjustment for this selection, it is estimated that the women born in 1959 are 1.5 cm shorter, and women born in 1961 have one-fold higher odds of having high blood pressure in adulthood than other birth cohorts.

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Presented in Session 50: Economic Crises, Natural Disasters and Population Well-Being