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Health and economic development since 1900

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  • Gallardo-Albarrán, Daniel

Abstract

The 20th century has brought unprecedented gains in health. While these have improved citizens’ lives worldwide, progress has been uneven and have in turn led to substantial cross-country health inequalities. This article looks at the effects of these inequalities on between-country economic inequality since 1900 using a level accounting framework that includes life expectancy as an important part of human capital besides education. The main results show that health has been a historically important source of cross-country income variation. In 1900 and 1955, differences in life expectancy accounted for almost 20 percent and a quarter of between-country income inequality. In addition, I find that the reduction of cross-country health differentials between mid-20th century and 1990 was an important source of income convergence. In a counterfactual exercise, I show that between-country income inequality would have been almost 20 percent higher nowadays, had the process of health convergence after 1955 not taken place. Finally, I find that the relative importance of health for income levels has stayed constant in the last three decades due to a deceleration in the rate of health convergence.

Suggested Citation

  • Gallardo-Albarrán, Daniel, 2018. "Health and economic development since 1900," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 228-237.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:31:y:2018:i:c:p:228-237
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2018.08.009
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    4. Aburto, Jose Manuel & Kristensen, Frederikke Frehr & Sharp, Paul, 2020. "Black-White Disparities During an Epidemic: Life Expectancy and Lifespan Disparity in the US, 1980-2000," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 512, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    5. Aburto, José Manuel & Kristensen, Frederikke Frehr & Sharp, Paul, 2021. "Black-white disparities during an epidemic: Life expectancy and lifespan disparity in the US, 1980–2000," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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