May 04, 2021 | News | Congratulations

Luis Serratos-Sotelo Obtained His Doctorate

© Håkan Röjder

On April 29, 2021 Luis Serratos-Sotelo from the Research Group: Labor Demography successfully defended his doctoral thesis on "Disease, Death, and Displacement: The long-term effects of early-life conditions on income, education, and health in Sweden, 1937-2011" at Lund University.

In his dissertation, Serratos-Sotelo aims at providing some insights about how specific changes in early-life conditions can affect individuals’ lives in the long-term. 

The study focuses on three very different shocks to early-life conditions:

  1. exposure to disease and vaccination, studied through the case of polio and the vaccine against it,
  2. experiencing forced migration, studied through the case of Yugoslavian refugees in Sweden, and
  3. losing a parent during the childhood years.

Since they alter the environment in which children develop, these experiences can also have long-term repercussions in their adult outcomes. Using high-quality, individual-level data from the Swedish administrative registers, as well as methods of causal inference, the three studies in this thesis attempt at understanding how these shocks can affect the educational attainment, adult health, and adult income of the children who lived through them.

For the case of disease and vaccination, the results show that there was no evidence that exposure during early life to either a polio outbreak, or to introduction of the vaccine against the disease, had long-term impacts on adult income, education, or health. Through the study of the case of polio, this thesis contributes to our understanding of scarring effects of disease exposure, particularly by showing that not all shocks and diseases have repercussions felt across the years, even if those effects are theoretically plausible.

For the case of forced migration, the results show that asylum-seeking children who arrived in Sweden as a consequence of the mid-90’s war in Yugoslavia had lower educational outcomes, compared to non-displaced children, measured almost a decade after the exposure occurred.

Finally, for the case of parental death, the results provide evidence that there is an association between parental loss during childhood and lower adult income, educational attainment, and worse health. This analysis also suggests that children’s grief and emotional trauma related to losing a parent is a relevant mechanism for the observed effects.

The dissertation was supervised by Mikko Myrskylä and Peter Eibich (MPIDR) and Tommy Bengtsson and Anton Nilsson (Lund University).

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.