Heterogeneity in the long term health effects of warfare

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Abstract

This paper estimates the long-term heterogeneous legacies of exposures to war in utero and during early childhood on height in adulthood. Using a novel dataset on the regional WWII destruction in Germany, combined with the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), we find that individuals who experienced warfare in utero and during childhood are an average of 2 cm shorter as adults, suggesting that the negative scarring effect of WWII dominated the positive effect coming from a selection. Among war survivors, children from less privileged families who resided in highly destroyed regions, particularly girls, suffered the greatest health consequences of warfare. Our analyses also show that wartime children who lost their parents during the war years are an average of 1.3 cm shorter as adults. However, the father’s conscription during WWII had no long-term effect on adult height.

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