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Modern Medicine and the Twentieth Century Decline in Mortality: Evidence on the Impact of Sulfa Drugs

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  • Seema Jayachandran
  • Adriana Lleras-Muney
  • Kimberly V. Smith

Abstract

This paper studies the contribution of sulfa drugs, a groundbreaking medical innovation in the 1930s, to declines in US mortality. For several infectious diseases, sulfa drugs represented the first effective treatment. Using time-series and difference-in-differences methods, we find that sulfa drugs led to a 24 to 36 percent decline in maternal mortality, 17 to 32 percent decline in pneumonia mortality, and 52 to 65 percent decline in scarlet fever mortality between 1937 and 1943. Altogether, sulfa drugs reduced mortality by 2 to 3 percent and increased life expectancy by 0.4 to 0.7 years. We also find that sulfa drugs benefited whites more than blacks. (JEL I12, L65, N32, N72)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 2 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 118-46

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:2:y:2010:i:2:p:118-46

Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.2.2.118
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  1. Perron, P, 1988. "The Great Crash, The Oil Price Shock And The Unit Root Hypothesis," Papers 338, Princeton, Department of Economics - Econometric Research Program.
  2. Thomasson, Melissa A. & Treber, Jaret, 2008. "From home to hospital: The evolution of childbirth in the United States, 1928-1940," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 76-99, January.
  3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
  4. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1.
  5. Donald W. K. Andrews, 2003. "Tests for Parameter Instability and Structural Change with Unknown Change Point: A Corrigendum," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 395-397, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Oriana Bandiera & Ashwini Natraj, 2013. "Does Gender Inequality Hinder Development and Economic Growth? Evidence and Policy Implications," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 28(1), pages 2-21, February.
  2. Alexander Zimper & Alexander Ludwig & Max Groneck, 2012. "A Life-Cycle Consumption Model with Ambiguous Survival Beliefs," 2012 Meeting Papers 693, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2010. "Improving human development: a long-run view," Working Papers in Economic History wp10-07, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.
  4. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2013. "Human development in Africa: A long-run perspective," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 179-204.
  5. Wüst, Miriam, 2012. "Early interventions and infant health: Evidence from the Danish home visiting program," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 484-495.
  6. Casper Worm Hansen, 2012. "Causes of mortality and development: Evidence from large health shocks in 20th century America," Economics Working Papers 2012-29, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  7. Hansen, Casper Worm, 2013. "Life expectancy and human capital: Evidence from the international epidemiological transition," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1142-1152.
  8. Ricardo Mora & Iliana Reggio, 2012. "Treatment effect identification using alternative parallel assumptions," Economics Working Papers we1233, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Economía.
  9. Ryan Masters, 2012. "Uncrossing the U.S. Black-White Mortality Crossover: The Role of Cohort Forces in Life Course Mortality Risk," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 773-796, August.

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