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Has the Preston Curve Broken Down?

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Author Info

  • Georgios Georgiadis

    ()
    (Goethe University Frankfurt)

  • José Pineda

    ()
    (Human Development Report Office at United Nations Development Programme)

  • Francisco Rodríguez

    ()
    (Human Development Report Office at United Nations Development Programme)

Abstract

Three apparently contradictory stylized facts characterize the relationship between per capita incomes and life expectancy: (i) the existence of a strong correlation between the level of life expectancy and the level of per capita income, (ii) the absence of a significant correlation between changes in per capita income and changes in life expectancy, and (iii) the persistence of twin peaks in the distribution of life expectancy, despite their progressive disappearance from the income data. This paper seeks to reconcile these apparently contradictory findings. We argue that a data generating process in which there is a relationship between income and life expectancy for high levels of development but not for low ones can explain these stylized facts, while models that apply a uniform relationship to all countries cannot. We also argue that the slope of the relationship between income and life expectancy is significantly overestimated by standard cross-sectional estimates, with the true slope being much lower for some countries and not statistically significantly different from zero for others. Lastly, we provide evidence from an error-correction model showing that the elasticity of life expectancy to incomes has been declining both for countries at high and low levels of development. We suggest that these results can be interpreted as showing that income matters only for countries that are close enough to the world health technological frontier.

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File URL: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2010/papers/HDRP_2010_32.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its series Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) with number HDRP-2010-32.

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Length: 59 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as background research for the 2010 Human Development Report.
Handle: RePEc:hdr:papers:hdrp-2010-32

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Related research

Keywords: Life expectancy; income growth; Preston curve; health determinants; Monte Carlo experiments.;

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References

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  1. de Walque, Damien, 2007. "How does the impact of an HIV/AIDS information campaign vary with educational attainment? Evidence from rural Uganda," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 686-714, November.
  2. Damien de Walque, 2009. "Does Education Affect HIV Status? Evidence from five African Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 23(2), pages 209-233, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Goenka, A. & Jafarey, S. & Pouliot, W., 2012. "Pollution, mortality and optimal environmental policy," Working Papers 12/07, Department of Economics, City University London.
  2. David Mayer-Foulkes, 2011. "A Causal Panorama of Cross-Country Human Development," DEGIT Conference Papers c016_049, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.

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