"The key distinction for policy purposes is that whereas heredity is immutable, congenital characteristics are mediated by the prenatal environment. This strongly suggests that economic outcomes are malleable in a way not widely recognized and therefore subject to improvement," explains Douglas Almond (Columbia University).
Detecting delayed effects is inherently difficult, and Almond ingeniously utilizes census microdata from three decades – including not only birth year, but birth quarter – to analyze the adult economic outcomes of those exposed in utero to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Twenty-five million people in the United States contracted influenza during the 1918 pandemic and survived. The pandemic struck without warning and lasted only a few months, meaning that those born a few months apart had markedly different in utero conditions. Additionally, the severity of the pandemic varied widely and idiosyncratically across states with little in common economically, demographically, climatically, or geographically.
"The 1918 influenza pandemic provides an exceptional opportunity to evaluate effects of prenatal environment using U.S. census data," writes Almond. "Some of the highest infection rates were observed among women of childbearing age, one third of whom contracted influenza."
Almond found that the children of infected mothers were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and sons of infected mothers earned approximately $2,500 less per year than those who did not have fetal influenza exposure. Additionally, those who were in utero at the height of the epidemic had 20 percent higher disability rates at the age of 61.
"This broad range of socioeconomic impacts is found among men, women, whites, and non-whites alike," writes Almond. "This finding, when combined with previous positive findings on the long-term health effects of the prenatal period, helps explain the gradient between adult health and economic outcomes. That fetal health may be at the fulcrum of this relationship suffers no shortage of policy implications." Specifically, the findings indicate that racial disparities in adult health and economic status could be reduced by targeting early-life health of black infants.
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06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
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10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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