Essays on Families, Health Policy, and the Determinants of Children’s Long-Term Outcomes

Författare: Edvin Hertegård, Och

Sammanfattning av Dissertation series 2024:1


Hertegård, E. 2023. Essays on Families, Health Policy, and the Determinants of Children's Long-Term Outcomes. Economic studies 211. 236 pp. Uppsala: Department of Economics, Uppsala University. ISBN 978-91-506-3008-4.

Essay I: Divorce laws are known to influence family behavior, but empirical evidence of their effects on children remains scarce. I shed more light on this by investigating the effects of the Swedish divorce law reform of 1974, which liberalized the existing divorce laws and introduced a 6-month parental reconsideration period for divorce. The results suggest that exposure to more liberal divorce laws decreases children's upper secondary school graduation rate by 5.6%. Evaluating the reconsideration period, I find that children more exposed to this reform element are 18.3% less likely to experience parental divorce and are 1.8% more likely to graduate from upper secondary school. The findings highlight a trade-off between parental freedom of choice and the beneficial effects of divorce restrictions on children's outcomes.

Essay II: Fluoridation of drinking water has remained controversial since its inception as a public policy. The fundamental concern is whether fluoride exposure affects children's cognitive development. This study leverages the water fluoridation experiment in the Swedish city of Norrköping 1952–1962 for causal evidence of the effects of fluoride exposure during childhood. The main findings are negative effects of water fluoridation exposure during childhood on cognitive ability and non-cognitive ability around age 18, and on the probability of graduating from high school. I find no effects for the cohorts born after the experiment ceased in 1962.

Essay III: (with Helena Svaleryd and Jonas Vlachos): At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Swedish upper secondary schools moved to online instruction, while lower secondary schools remained open. Leveraging rich Swedish register data, we find that exposure to open rather than closed schools resulted in a small increase in PCR-confirmed infections among parents. The results indicate that keeping lower secondary schools open had minor consequences for the overall transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Essay IV: (with Julien Grenet, Hans Grönqvist, Martin Nybom, and Jan Stuhler): We study how the next generation of workers adjust in response to economic crisis. The context is the massive economic recession that hit Sweden in 1990, which disproportionally affected the manufacturing and construction sectors. Our analysis shows that students experiencing paternal job loss from the crisis sectors before making their high school program choices select into programs less affected by the crisis. Early paternal job loss is also found to positively affect the students’ lifetime earnings, and to increase their chances of being employed later in life. The results indicate that economic crisis may have lasting effects on the composition of the labor force.

Keywords: Family behavior, Children's outcomes, Fluoride exposure, COVID-19, Economic crisis


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