Oberlin College economist to speak Friday

By Grant Morgan, Writer

Ample research shows that unsanitary water creates health issues in young children. Martin Saavedra, assistant professor of economics at Oberlin College, says that dirty water affects later-life earnings and education as well.

Saavedra is presenting his paper on Friday Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences in room 438. This seminar is the last of the Economic Department’s fall lectureship series and anyone can attend.

Though water purity is not a substantial threat to U.S. citizens now, it was in the early 1900s. Waterborne diseases like typhoid fever and cholera were common.

According to Saavedra’s sources, infant mortality decreased by 50 percent between 1900 and 1950, partly from cleaner water.

Saavedra’s study concludes that when cities used clean water technologies back then, urban citizens had one to nine months more schooling and one to nine percent earnings increases in later life.

“There’s a lot of work on how early childhood health interventions affected adult labor market outcomes. Yet there are no studies that have looked at the long term effects of providing people clean water,”  Saavedra said.

Deciphering the link may help developing countries as they start to purify their water.

Water is purified in one of three ways: dumping sewage far from water sources, filtering massive quantities of water, or chlorinating water to kill bacteria.

Saavedra says that, no matter what method, cleaning a community’s water is essential to its prosperity; later-life outcomes negate the primary costs of cleaning it.