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American Economic Journal: Applied Economics: Vol. 3 No. 4 (October 2011)

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Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance during Pregnancy

Article Citation

Almond, Douglas, and Bhashkar Mazumder. 2011. "Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance during Pregnancy." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 3(4): 56-85.

DOI: 10.1257/app.3.4.56

Abstract

This paper uses the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in diurnal fasting and fetal health. Among births to Arab parents in Michigan, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan results in lower birth weight. Exposure in the first month of gestation also reduces the number of male births. Turning to long-term "fetal origins" effects, we find Muslims in Uganda and Iraq are 20 percent more likely to be disabled as adults if early pregnancy overlapped with Ramadan. Estimated effects are larger for mental (or learning) disabilities. Our results suggest that relatively mild prenatal exposures can have persistent effects. (JEL I12, J16, O15, O17, Z12 )

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Authors

Almond, Douglas (Columbia U)
Mazumder, Bhashkar (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

JEL Classifications

I12: Health Production
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
O15: Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
O17: Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
Z12: Cultural Economics: Religion

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