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

Author

Listed:
  • 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)

Suggested Citation

  • Seema Jayachandran & Adriana Lleras-Muney & Kimberly V. Smith, 2010. "Modern Medicine and the Twentieth Century Decline in Mortality: Evidence on the Impact of Sulfa Drugs," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 118-146, April.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    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, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    4. Perron, Pierre, 1989. "The Great Crash, the Oil Price Shock, and the Unit Root Hypothesis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, pages 1361-1401.
    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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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • L65 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Chemicals; Rubber; Drugs; Biotechnology; Plastics
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N72 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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