Project #3 - Intergenerational Processes and Aging in Multiple Generations This project's main goal is to enhance a genealogical database, the Intergenerationally-Linked Aging Sample (ILAS), and use it to understand the role of non-genetic factors in the intergenerational transmission of longevity, focusing on family structure, parental socioeconomic status (SES), and environmental shocks. The ILAS data have been collected from printed family histories and genealogies and contain demographic information on 118,062 people born between 1577 and 1983.
Aim 1 : Enhance the ILAS by merging ecological and macroeconomic variables, including cause-specific mortality rates, annual weather variables, elevation, malaria, hookworm, crop production, and recession indicators. We will make the data publicly available and provide a visual tree of family histories.
Aim 2 : Investigate the intergenerational and multi-generational transmission of longevity over the past four centuries, whether (and why) intergenerational effects have changed over the centuries, the role of maternal versus paternal longevity, and how the intergenerational effect differs for men and women.
Aim 3 : Examine the effect on children's longevity of family structure such as children's age at parental deaths and the absence and marital status of parents in early life, and how long the familial effects can persist.
Aim 4 : Examine the effect of parental exposure to 1) weather shocks such as drought, flood and heat, 2) disease environments such as malaria, hookworm and epidemics, 3) economic hardships caused by historical recessions (e.g., the 1837 panic) and harvest failures on children's longevity.
Aim 5 : Investigate the significance of the timing and duration of the parental exposures in Aim 4 to ecological and macroeconomic conditions, how these effects persist over generations, and how these effects are associated with family structure. We also will explore the interactions between environmental and inheritable factors such as epigenetic modifications mediated by an environmental shock.
Aim 6 : Study how the mean and variance in life expectancy have changed over the centuries, and how these trends are related to changes in the influence of intergenerational transmission of longevity over time.
Aim 7 : Examine the significance of exposure to stress due to environmental shocks in determining children's longevity by comparing the children of Civil War veterans (Projects #1 and #2) and non-veterans'children (Project #3) born in similar years.

Public Health Relevance

By investigating the inheritance of human longevity across generations, this project will enhance our understanding of how individuals, communities, and society can promote health and prolong life. The findings will have implications for disease prevention, the alleviation of the effects of environmental shocks and economic recessions on health, investment on early-life conditions, and family structure.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Costa, Dora L (2014) Leaders: Privilege, Sacrifice, Opportunity, and Personnel Economics in the American Civil War. J Law Econ Organ 30:437-462
Fogel, Robert W; Cain, Louis; Burton, Joseph et al. (2013) Was what ail'd ya what kill'd ya? Econ Hum Biol 11:269-80
Costa, Dora L; Kahn, Matthew E (2010) Health, wartime stress, and unit cohesion: evidence from Union Army veterans. Demography 47:45-66
Wilson, Sven E (2010) Prejudice & policy: racial discrimination in the Union Army disability pension system, 1865-1906. Am J Public Health 100 Suppl 1:S56-65
Costa, Dora L (2010) Pensions and Retirement Among Black Union Army Veterans. J Econ Hist 70:567-592
Su, Dejun (2009) Occupational career and risk of mortality among US Civil War veterans. Soc Sci Med 69:460-8
de Paula, Aureo (2009) Inference in a Synchronization Game with Social Interactions. J Econom 148:56-71
Cain, Louis; Hong, Sok Chul (2009) Survival in 19th Century Cities: The Larger the City, the Smaller Your Chances. Explor Econ Hist 46:450-463
Noymer, Andrew (2009) Testing the influenza-tuberculosis selective mortality hypothesis with Union Army data. Soc Sci Med 68:1599-608
Logan, Trevon D (2009) Health, Human Capital, and African American Migration Before 1910. Explor Econ Hist 46:169-185

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