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Abstract

This paper uses the aftermath of the great Tambora eruption in 1815 as a natural experiment to explore the long-term effects of a nutritional shock during prenatal development. The volcanic explosion of Tambora formed substantial ash columns which hampered sunlight, cooled down the surface temperature, reduced the length of the growing season, and led to a severe harvest failure during summer and winter of 1816 in Europe and northeastern states of America. US decennial census 1850 provides evidence that cohorts in utero during the climate anomaly revealed lower literacy rates, lower labor force participation rates, a fewer number of own children, and a higher female-male ratio. The results are confirmed among the same cohorts in England, Canada, and Norway. The decennial census of each country indicates negative effects of exposure during prenatal development on labor market participation rates in adulthood.

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