Maarit Olkkola

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

I am an 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 the impacts of public health policies on health, education and labor market outcomes, both in Finland and the US.

Current positions:

PhD student in Economics,
Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

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

Working papers

Mass Vaccination and Educational Attainment: Evidence from the 1967–68 Measles Eradication Campaign Revise & resubmit (Journal of Health Economics)

joint work with: Philipp Barteska, Sonja Dobkowitz, and Michael Rieser

Previous versions of this paper include our Master's thesis at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and a working paper circulated as "Vaccine-preventable Childhood Disease and Adult Human Capital: Evidence from the 1967 Measles Eradication Campaign in the United States".

We show that the first nationwide mass vaccination campaign against measles increased educational attainment in the United States. Our empirical strategy exploits the variation in exposure to the childhood disease across states right before the Measles Eradication Campaign of 1967–68, which reduced reported measles incidence by 90 percent within two years. Our results suggest that mass vaccination against measles increased the years of education on average by about 0.1 years for males in the affected cohorts. Their college graduation rate increased by approximately two percentage points.

Work in progress

Public Policy and the Child Mortality Transition

Aim: For the last 40 years, Finland has had the lowest child mortality rate in the world, currently at less than two child deaths per thousand live births. The Finnish leadership has been overwhelmingly attributed to a universal child health station policy in both Finnish academic and popular discourse. Yet, how the introduction of the policy contributed to the child mortality transition has not previously been empirically tested.

This paper examines the introduction of universal primary health care for children below school age in mid-20th century Finland. During World War II, the central government began subsidizing, and soon after mandating, municipalities to establish simple child health stations with an educated public health nurse in charge. The nurse's mandate was to keep track of the health of all children below school age, by offering regular free of charge well-child visits at the station as well as home visits, especially in remote rural areas. The aim of the preventive care was to detect health problems early, and to give guidance to parents on child health, nutrition, and hygiene. The nurse could also independently administer simple novel medical techniques, such as vaccines and nutritional supplements for malnourished children, as well as medicine, such as newly available antibiotics, after consulting with a physician. The central government saw health counseling by public health nurses as the most cost-effective solution to reduce child mortality in the rural countryside, where 75 per cent of the population lived and where half of the municipalities continued to lack any physicians in 1946. The government was impoverished by the war effort, but considered it essential to mandate child health services to be free of charge to the parents in order to reach all families.

The Finnish child mortality transition provides a particularly informative context for understanding how public policy contributed to the child mortality transition. First, from the point of view of the 1930s, Finland was an unlikely child survival pioneer. Finnish children born in the 1930s were 75 per cent more likely to die than children in the neighbouring country Sweden, a child survival leader at the time. As the figure demonstrates, every ninth Finnish child born in the 1930s died before turning five - a rate similar to the ten Sub-Saharan African countries that have the highest child mortality rates today. Despite the unfavourable situation in the 1930s and the difficult recovery from war, in only two decades Finland reached the child mortality levels of the richest country, the United States, and soon after converged to Sweden. Notably, the difference in child survival in the 1930s was only partially due to infant mortality: Finnish children aged one to four died at a rate more than twice of that in Sweden in the 1930s, but this difference virtually disappeared by 1960.

Second, the gradual municipality-level rollout of the first universal child health policy in Finland offers a rare opportunity to examine how public policy reduces child deaths. This variation allows for comparing municipalities that establish a child health station to municipalities that have not yet implemented the policy. An event-study analysis enables controlling for unobserved characteristics of the municipalities that do not vary over time as well as for common time-varying shocks by province.

Long-run Impacts of Universal Child Health Care

Aim: I estimate the impacts of the introduction of primary health care for children on adult outcomes. Universal child health services were rolled-out in Finnish municipalities in the 1940s. Thus, free-of-charge well-child visits with a public health nurse both at health stations and at home became available in the countryside, where half of the municipalities lacked any physicians. Using administrative and census data for Finnish cohorts born 1926--1970, I estimate the impacts of the child health station policy on adult educational attainment and labor market outcomes.

Intergenerational effects of forced migration (with Elias Dinas, Dominik Hangartner, llona Lahdelma & Matti Sarvimäki)