Intensive agriculture and deep plowing caused topsoil erosion and dust storms during the 1930s, affecting agricultural income and land values for years. Given the growing literature on the relevance of in utero and early-life exposures, it is surprising that studies focusing on links between the Dust Bowl and later-life health have produced inconclusive and mixed results. We reevaluate this literature and study the long-term effects of in utero and early-life exposure to topsoil erosion caused by the 1930s Dust Bowl on old-age longevity. Specifically, using Social Security Administration death records linked with the full-count 1940 census, we conduct event studies with difference-in-differences designs to compare the longevity of individuals in high- versus low-topsoil-erosion counties before versus after 1930. We find intent-to-treat reductions in longevity of approximately 0.85 months for those born in high-erosion counties after 1930. We show that these effects are not an artifact of preexisting trends in longevity. Additional analyses suggest that the effects are more pronounced among children raised in farm households, females, and those whose mothers had lower education. We also provide suggestive evidence that reductions in adulthood income are a likely mechanism for the effects we document.

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