The Impact of Migration on Infant Health: Evidence from the Great Migration

Katherine Eriksson, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Greg Niemesh, Miami University

The Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North entailed a significant change in the health environment, particularly of infants, during a time when access to medical care and public health infrastructure became increasingly important. We create a dataset that links individual infant death certificates to parental characteristics to assess the impact of parents' migration to Northern cities on infant mortality. This dataset allows us to control for selection into migration and detailed parental characteristics. Conditional on parents' pre-migration observable characteristics and county-of-origin fixed effects, we find that black infants were more likely to die in the North relative to their southern-born counterparts. We find no evidence of the "healthy migrant" effect. Given that infant health has a long-lasting impact on adult outcomes, the results shed light on how the Great Migration contributed to African Americans’ gains in health and income during the 20th century.

  See paper

Presented in Session 106: Health, Migration, Race, and Education