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Lena Edlund

Associate Professor of Economics

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Past Research: Professor Edlund’s research focuses on the economics of gender and family, interests that have also led her to evolutionary biology and life-history analysis. Edlund’s past research has analyzed the impact of marriage and partner market conditions on sex allocation, with a particular focus on the status of females. She has studied son preference and sex selective abortion, dowry determination, why cities in the industrialized world are more female, and sex allocation at the individual level. She has also been interested in the importance of female inheritance for the gender wealth distribution. Another strand of her research has explored the legal framework governing formal marriages across cultures, an interest that has led to studies of markets for sex and children, consent regimes (parental or individual consent), and the alignment of political preferences along gender lines in the wake of the sexual revolution ushered in by the Pill.

Present Research: Edlund’s current research focuses on maternal conditions and child outcomes. One paper looks at male vulnerability in early life. While it is well known that males suffer higher mortality than females at all ages, particularly up until age one, it is less well known that males suffer more from poor maternal conditions; Edlund and colleagues document this phenomenon, studying perinatal and infant mortality in the United States. A second paper examines maternal malnutrition and long-term (adult) outcomes of offspring using the Chinese Great Leap Forward famine as a natural experiment. Maternal malnutrition remains a problem in many developing countries where pregnant and lactating women are high-risk groups for nutritional inadequacy. A third paper looks at cognitive effects of fetal low-level ionizing irradiation. Sweden received substantial radioactive fallout following the Chernobyl nuclear accident that took place in Ukraine in 1986. We find that Swedish children in utero at the time performed worse in their final year of compulsory school (at age 16) than their peers who were not exposed, and the damage was more severe for children born in areas that received more fallout. Doses to the Swedish population were such that the results are relevant for policy formulation relating to, e.g., radon exposure, medical procedures, radiation workers, and recommendations in the case of a terrorist attack involving a so-called dirty bomb.

Future Research: Future work will investigate whether there were earlier health manifestations presaging the observed effects for Swedish children (perinatal outcomes, in-patient records), as well as track this cohort as it ages and as additional outcomes (fertility, mortality, labor market) become available. We will also explore the role of parental socioeconomic status in buffering the health and labor market impact of negative shocks to cognitive ability. Other work will investigate the effects of paternal absence on teenage girls, and the relationship between height and mortality.

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