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In the early part of the 20th century the disease pellagra, now almost unknown, affected and killed thousands of people in the United States. Some claimed it was an infection, while others maintained it was due to a dietary deficiency. The economist Edgar Sydenstricker (1881-1936), who was a member of a US Public Health Service team examining the disease, argued it was critical to understand how pellagra varied by levels of income. Collecting survey data he realized that it was important to adjust household income for household size and composition using what is now known as equivalence scales. His research demonstrated that there was a strong negative correlation between the incidence of pellagra and equivalized household income which helped isolate the cause.

The seminar will provide both an historical overview as well as discussion of the potential implications of this work for modern epidemiology.