January 2024

IZA DP No. 16765: Multigenerational Effects of Smallpox Vaccination

Volha Lazuka, Peter S. Jensen

Can the effect of a positive health shock, such as childhood vaccination, transmit across three generations? To answer this question, we estimate the impact of smallpox vaccination in childhood on the longevity and occupational achievements of three generations using unique individual-level data from Sweden, covering the last 250 years. We apply different estimation strategies based on linear and non-linear probability models. To address endogeneity concerns, we construct a shift-share instrumental variable, utilizing the fact that vaccination in Sweden was administered by the low-skilled clergy, who otherwise did not perform public health duties. Overall, our results show that a positive shock to the health of the first generation, such as smallpox vaccination, operating through various channels, enhances both health and socio-economic outcomes for at least two more generations.