Extreme weather and mortality: evidence from two millennia of Chinese elites

Wang-Sheng Lee, Ben G. Li

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Modern technology empowers human beings to cope with various extreme weather events. Using Chinese historical data, we examine the impact of extreme weather on long-term human mortality in an environment where individuals had no access to modern technology. By combining life-course data on 5000 Chinese elites with historical weather data over the period 1–1840 AD, we find a significant and robust negative impact of droughts in childhood on the longevity of elites. Quantitatively, encountering three years of droughts in childhood reduces an elite's life span by about two years.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102401
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Longevity
  • Weather
  • Early-life conditions
  • Elites
  • History of China

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