Essays on Politics and Health Economics

University dissertation from Uppsala : Department of Economics, Uppsala University

Abstract: Essay I (with Mattias Öhman): Fluoridation of the drinking water is a public policy whose aim is to improve dental health. Although the evidence is clear that fluoride is good for dental health, concerns have been raised regarding potential negative effects on cognitive development. We study the effects of fluoride exposure through the drinking water in early life on cognitive and non-cognitive ability, education and labor market outcomes in a large-scale setting. We use a rich Swedish register dataset for the cohorts born 1985-1992, together with drinking water fluoride data. To estimate the effect we exploit intra-municipality variation of fluoride, stemming from an exogenous variation in the bedrock. First, we investigate and confirm the long-established positive relationship between fluoride and dental health. Second, we find precisely estimated zero effects on cognitive ability, non-cognitive ability and education. We do not find any evidence that fluoride levels below 1.5 mg/l have negative effects. Third, we find evidence that fluoride improves labor market outcome later in life, which indicates that good dental health is a positive factor on the labor market.