Maarit Olkkola

PhD student in Economics, Aalto University & The Helsinki Graduate School of Economics, Finland

I am a fourth-year Economics PhD student specializing in applied Labor and Health Economics, as well as Economic History. My main research interest is the early-life formation of skills and preferences, including the interaction between childhood health and human capital formation.

My current dissertation work focuses on both short-run and long-run impacts of public health policies on labor market, educational and health outcomes, both in Finland and the US. I also have a visiting researcher position at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in a multidisciplinary research group consisting of epidemiologists, pediatricians, psychologists, nutritionists and economic historians focusing on life-course data.

Current positions:

PhD student in Economics, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland (2016->)

Visiting researcher, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland (2013->)

Research fields:

Labor Economics, Economic History, Health Economics

Contact information:


Aalto University Department of Economics P.O. Box 21240 FI-00076 AALTO


2016 Master in Economics and Finance, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics

2015 Master of Social Sciences (Economic and Social History), University of Helsinki

Work in progress

Vaccine-Preventable Childhood Disease and Adult Human Capital - Evidence from the 1967 Measles Eradication Campaign in the United States

joint work with: Philipp Barteska (London School of Economics), Sonja Dobkowitz (University of Bonn), Michael Rieser (University of Basel)

Based on our Master's project at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

We analyze the impact of measles prevention in the first years of life on adult labor market and educational outcomes with the national measles eradication campaign implemented in 1967 in the United States. Our empirical strategy exploits the variation in measles incidence across states before the campaign, which reduced measles exposure close to zero within a year. Our results suggest that reduced measles exposure in the first years of life increased annual earned income around age 32 by about 2 per cent. Part of this increase seems to be due to increases in educational attainment, but the results on educational attainment are only marginally statistically significant and small in magnitude: years of schooling increased by about two weeks and the probability of completing high school by 0.4 percentage points. The point estimates are likely to be a lower-bound due to measurement error.

Infant and Maternal Mortality Decline – The Role of Pre-natal and Well-child visits

Aim: For the last fifty years, Finland has had one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, Finland was lagging behind the United States and many European countries, including the other Nordic countries. A rapid decline in infant mortality took place in late 1940s and early 1950s, and by the 1970s Finland had taken the lead together with the Scandinavian countries. I document with individual-level cause-specific death certificate data that maternal mortality also more than halved within five years after the end of World War 2, to a large extent due to a decline in antibiotic-preventable causes and eclampsia.

This was also the period when Finland introduced and expanded universal pre-natal and well-child visits for pregnant women and children up to age 7. I use different kinds of variation in the implementation of universal preventive health services to quantify their contribution to the rapid infant and maternal mortality decline. First, I document the roll-out of these preventive health services by municipality and use event-study designs to estimate the causal effect on infant and maternal mortality. Second, I use as instrumental variables municipal population thresholds in the laws on municipal midwives and public health nurses who carried out most of the preventive health work. Third, I use the invention of new life-saving innovations, such as vaccines and antibiotics, to describe how the role of preventive health services changed over time. Fourth, I use detailed data on the implementation of the policy to examine potential mechanisms behind the impacts of the reform.

Long-Run Benefits of Well-child Visits – Evidence from a Roll-out in Finland

Aim: I estimate the impacts of universal access to early-life preventive health services on adult educational attainment, labor market outcomes and health. Preventive pre-natal and well-child visits were rolled-out in Finnish municipalities in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus free-of-charge well-child visits both at home and at preventive health centers became available to a poor, predominantly rural population with limited access to other health services. Demand for visits was also incentivized with a conditional cash transfer for pregnant mothers. Using administrative and census data for Finnish cohorts born 1910-1960, I estimate the impacts of the well-child visit policy on adult educational attainment, earnings and health.

The Finnish baby box policy (with Kristiina Huttunen (Aalto University, VATT), Julian Reif (University of Illinois) and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)

Aim: We use a regression discontinuity design to analyze impacts of the Finnish maternity grant and baby box policy first implemented in 1938. Early-life data come from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study 1934-1944, including eligibility by income threshold. Later-life data come from Finnish administrative registers.

Family composition and personality traits (with Anne Ardila Brenøe & Matti Sarvimäki)

Intergenerational effects of forced migration (with Dominik Hangartner, Matti Sarvimäki & Dalston Ward)